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an anthology of Chinese poet^ 
from the earliest times 
to the present dc^ 
new^ translated 

edited by 







THE CHOU DYNASTY 1112-249 bc 
The Book of Songs 26 

From The Fountain of Old Poems 68 

Tao Teh Chmg 72 

Chu Yuan 87 

The Stone Drums 1 1 3 

THE HAN DYNASTY 206 bc-ad 221 
Liu Pang 1 19 

From The Nineteen Flan Poems i2o 

Yuan Chi 123 

Tao Yuan-mmg 127 

Li Shih-inmg 147 

Chen Tzu-ang 149 

Wang Wei i^-o 

The Song of Experiencing the Tao 1 £4. 

Li Po 1^8 

Ts^en Ts^an 182 

Tu Fu 185- 

Po Chu-i 213 

Li Hua 228 

Wang Ts ^ang-hng 232 

Chien Chi 234 

Chang Hsu 235- 

Chu Wan 236 

Liu Teh-jen 237 

Wei Ying-wu 238 

Yang Ch^u-yuan 239 

frontiers. They thought they possessed the world, but they knew 
at the same time there were continual dangers from south, west 
and north; and so much of their poetry is concerned with war 
that one might think that there was'' never a ^time when the 
barbarians were not knockmg at their gates. And perhaps this is 
true. During the Han dynasty, it was the barbanans who taught 
them new metres; and now once again it is the pale-faced 
barbanans from the west who are teaching them a new kmd of 
song. We may regret that Chinese poetry is eternally changing, 
but like the Chinese earth itself we know that it is eternally 
the same 

I remember a Chinese scholar who said: "If you wish to 
understand China at all, you must read her poetry and The Dream 
of the Red Chamber^. It may be true. There are times when Chma 
can never be understood — ^there are permanent barriers which 
can never be forced — but there are other times when a line of 
poetry, a single stroke of a brush on a sheet of silk, or perhaps 
some song sung by a girl m a ricefield will tell us more than we 
have ever learned from books. There is a delicacy in the Chmese 
language which we shall never hope to understand as long as we 
remember our thundermg hexameters; and those who would 
despair of any understandmg between west and east should 
remember that we have at least m the English lyric somethmg 
comparable with theirs. They have made language finer than the 
softest silk; they have deliberately cultivated their sensibihties 
until the sound of a petal falhng may be louder than the crash 
of kingdoms. They have exalted poetry mto the place of the 
angels, and they have written more poetry than all the other 
nations of the earth put together. 

And it is here that we are faced with difficulties How can 
one choose amid so much excellence? In the T^ang Dynasty at 
least 2,200 poets wrote 48,900 poems. These poems are preserved 
but a nodOdion others are lost to us. Li Po took pleasure in writing 
poetry and then throwing the paper on a stream and watching 
it sail away into the distance, and of how many other poets may 
we regret that so little has been preserved? We shall never know 
more than a small fraction of the treasures that Chinese poets 
have written during the long pilgrimage of the Chmese race. 
Unless like Socrates meditating in the sunrise, we see the whole 
universe at our feet, the treasures of Chinese poetry will never 
be entirely revealed to us. Time is short: the poets responsible 


for the construction of the immense pyramid of Chmese letters 
were perhaps more conscious of this even than their readers. In 
deference to their laboiyrs and our own monumental ignorance, 
we must sometimes attempt to achieve the impossible. This 
book IS therefore no more than an attempt to suggest the 
immensity which lies behind even the briefest exploration of 
Chinese poetry 

Nor IS it, even in its suggestions, complete Whole dynasties 
have been omitted, though it is hoped that in a later volume 
something from each of the dynasties will be included There is 
nothing here from the Mmg Dynasty, and little enough from the 
Ch^mg. We have authority for omittmg them — ^the best Chinese 
scholars msist that there was little advance and what is worse, 
there was ceaseless repetition. Even the T"ang dynasty poets 
regarded themselves as old men mcessantly repeatmg the poetic 
dogmas of the Hans ; they wrote their songs to tunes which had 
been handed down from a dynasty which perished four hundred 
years before; and they were content not to be competitors. 
Yet, because they were new and saw with fresh eyes, we 
remember them as more glonous than their ancestors. It was 
in the time of T"ai Tsung that Chinese poetry began to extend 
towards new frontiers ; and perhaps there is some lesson here, 
for it was a time of peace and great traffic with a newly discovered 
world beyond the frontiers of China. All races gathered together 
in the streets of Ch'ang-an The fiist Chinese philosophers 
ventured to India, the first Christians set up their temples m the 
Chinese capital. Toleration produced genius. There was war and 
starvation and slaughter to follow; but m those early years of the 
T^ang Empire, men found the condition under which the best 
poetry is vmtten — a land at peace. 

For four thousand recorded years the Chmese peasants (who 
later became soldiers) have hated the arts of war. They were a 
reasonable people encamped on the shores of a yellow river. 
They began as huntsmen — ^their early war poems are indis- 
tinguishable from their poetry of huntmg, the enemy a wolf or 
a wild boar or a dragon. In the supreme bewiderment of the mod- 
em wars, they speak with the same voice which Confucius 
heard in his wanderings. The war poems of modem Chma 
contain no bitterness Behind the flame-throwers and the 
poisoned gas, they see the villages of their childhood, the rice 
flowmg like a nver and the faces of the village boys flooding the 


valley hke an eternal spring-time. This happened, they say 
All my family has been destroyed The wells have been poisoned. 
God alone Imows who is responsible, ljut who can destroy my 
memories of childhood? When the Japanese were approaching 
Peking Pien Chih-lm would write about tiiem with amused 
tolerance, without cymcism, imagming the whole city as a kite 
which has broken loose from its moonngs, the world a child's 
plaything as it has always been There is strength and anger m 
Tien Chien, but even when he is most angered, there are 
moments of the most amazing tenderness. Chinese poetry does 
not change with the times: you will see in the very beginnings 
of her poetry, in the Book of Songs^ the same delighted awareness 
of the physical universe that you will see today. Here is poetry, 
clear, concise, etched sharply on the clear minds of the people 
and written in those characters which more than any alphabet 
conspire to make the word read the same as the thmg seen, the 
emotion experienced, the thought made luminous. 

Here you will find poetry of every kmd, from the wildest 
abandon of grief to the most tender exaltation of feeling. Sor- 
rowing over the world Tao Yuan-ming foimd beauty in the 
chrysanthemums. With a still greater sorrow the last Emperor 
of tihe T'ang Dynasty finds consolation in the fail of the peach- 
blc^iKiin* All goes, they say: the peach-blossom follows the 
moViiag water, but in this terrible impermanence of things 
there is a sharply felt regret, but also a sense of illumination, 
li Ho,* the ghostly descendant of kings, finds an arrowhead in 
some abandoned battle-field, but his grief is forgotten when he 
is reminded that the arrowhead may still be used. And so it is 
wilh other poets. Tu Fu calls on the Heavens to witness that 
virtue has gone out of the world, but at the moment of his 
great^t grief he will remember with a kind of amused delict 
how someone wore a dress on which the embroidered mountains 
and seas were upside down. Ts'en Ts'an was himself a warrior, 
and his memories of the wars were of the texture of things — a 
squirrePs fur, the thickening of a horse's mane in the frost, the 
of armour and the impact of the wind on the pennons m 
the Tan. Tte imagery is swift, the pen races the thought, the 
heart beats? time, the invention never falters, but beneath and 
around all this there is an atmosphere of tender pity, a universal 
friendliness, of how mellow a wisdom, how golden a simplicity. 
At the moment when the general dip his brush in the ink, he 


notices that the ice melts in the ink-wells He notices, too, how 
the icicles m the horse's mane become strings of cash or five- 
petal flowers His imagination is tumultuous and he is at home 
among hailstorms and endless journeys over the deserts of the 
northern frontiers. Almost alone among Chinese poets he re- 
joiced m the wars 

Not all Chinese war-poets were warriors Lu Lim was a 
scholar whose ancestors for four generations were connected 
with the court, and his four sons followed the same tradition. 
There is no evidence that he saw war at close quarters, yet the 
richness of his imagmation is something quite imique m Chmese 
poetry. In Dark nighty the wild geese jlj high he composed 
that rare thing — an ode in honour of a Chinese victory. The ode 
IS extremely short, but the strands of meanmg are many, it is 
condensed, as all Chmese poetry is condensed, but though 
image after image is made to follow across the page in rapid 
succession, the poem possesses a hardness and sharpness of vision 
which IS uncommon even m this dynasty, when men saw with 
precision thmgs that were unseen before. Before the T'ang 
Dynasty, there was little complexity m poetry emotions were 
as clear-cut as the simple colours which adorn the Book of Songs. 
But now, as the Chinese Empire grew larger and men of all 
nations flocked through her ports, it was inevitable that the 
mmds of the Chinese themselves should change, inevitable that 
the complexity of the imiverse should enter into the heart of 
their poetry, and still more inevitable that nothing has changed, 
everything is as it was before when the lovers were singing in 
the earliest of the songs mcluded here. 

But It IS well to remmd ourselves that the wars have left 
their mark on Chinese poetry for ever. Even today the Chinese 
scholar will sometimes find himself wakmg up at midnight and 
wondering what happened to the youths who were poured 
through the Yu Men Kuan on the north-western frontier of 
Kansu; and these places on the edge of China have a significance 
for the Chinese which it is impossible for any foreigner to grasp. 
Those wars fought thousands of miles away, m a strange savage 
countiy, are indehbly impressed on their minds. We had no 
wars like this until recently. The images of splendour and desola- 
tion are nearly always images that arise from these far-flung 
territories^ — ^the green grave in the north-west where Chao 
Cjbun was buried, the yellow sands of the plains, the snows and 


the Yin mountains. Even now, the ghostly cavalcades of red- 
maned ponies and rough-shod riders march along these deserted 
roads. We hear them. We see the pennons engraved with dragons 
and the banners engraved with goldf; and because poetry was 
written about them, we see and remember them more easily 
than we see and remember the legionaires who once guarded 
the northern forts of England. In some place unknown, along 
the shores of the Tsinjghai or in distant Fergana, the hearts of 
tie Chinese have their home. 

War, and the terror of war, have left their traces on the Chmese 
race, but even more merciless than war has been the poverty 
of the people. They will not speak about it often in their poems, 
but It is always there. The threat of starvation is eternally real 
in this country, where floods and barren fields are as common 
as thieving officials, where life must be fought for and every 
grain of rice is precious. So death is present in these poems, as it 
was present in the poems of our Elizabethan ancestors, a grimacing 
skull, a thmg to be feared, a claw coming out of the earA, a thing 
whose name can barely be whispered for fear that the ghosts will 
suffer on hearing their names. They had no rites by which they 
could exorcise the dead, and little enough faith in any future 
life. And because there was poverty, because death stood before 
them eternally like a threa&are ghost, they contrived all the 
more to enjoy the sparse beauty of life, and sharpened their 
senses imtil a single peach-blossom could shme with the glory 
of a king^s ransom. So they went on their pilgrimage, taking 
delight m little things, loving the sun and the colours of flowers 
above all things, people whose dust was so intennmgled in the 
soil that they perhaps alone of all nations do not feel themselves 
strangers to the land. They may curse their land at times, thinkmg 
how barren it is and how unprotected from invaders ; but it is 
theirs by a nght greater than ours is ours. 

For them death was so dose that they were compelled like 
ihe Elizabethans to wring all the joy out of life by force. But they 
did Bot feur death, nor did they fear the ghosts — ^they feared 
napre than anything else the frontiers of their land. No Chinese 
qp«;^liave written, like the unknown pnest who wrote Erevan : 

O V^ath, thou contest when I had thee least m mind^ 

hm would he have seen the universe dressed in flames, like King 
%mr. Death for the Chinese poet is not an emotion- it is a thing 

that happens, like birth and marriage and the fall of the plum- 
blossoms m early sprmg. There is no Christian apocalypse, no 
crucifixion, no final blaze of glory They were more human 
than the Europeans, who from earliest tunes have hinted secretly 
that they were gods, or at least could become gods. And because 
they had no belief m a future world, they loved the concrete 
things of life passionately and with a kmd of abandon, and where 
we will find glory in a dying youth on a wooden cross, they 
would find the same glory in a leaf, in the silence of the woods 
and the distant roarmg of tigers. They lived m a settled world 
where thmgs were what they were. In the end the warrior 
unarms, his task done, and finds sleep by the side of his bnde — 
and his bnde m the earth which gave him birth and sometimes 
nourished him, and he is as grateful to her in death as he is m 

So much of Chinese poetry is foreign to us that we enter it 
with a sense of bewilderment. Here are no gods and angels, no 
superhuman forces, no “Accuser who is the God of this World”. 
Since Babylonian times, the European spirit has been accustomed 
to the presence of vast and remote gods who ruled over the 
lives of all people with implacable sceptres: their breath has 
filled our poetry for four thousand or more years. But the 
Chinese gods were always life-size, and exceedmgly human, as 
anyone who has read Mr. Arthur Waley's excellent translation 
of the Hsi Yu Chi is aware Their gods were playthings , beauti- 
fully decorative, and nearly always cahn. Where our gods are 
youths strivmg in combat, theirs are generally old men, passionless 
and entirely preoccupied by the duties of benevolence. But it 
IS necessary to note that these old men were projections of them- 
selves, the men they would like to be if they could live long 
enough, if they could eat enough. And m a sense the old men 
were not so much projections of themselves as of their families, 
for mdividual life remains worthless — all must be trees, buddmg 
and giving forth fruit 

But if there is no death in Chinese poetry (there are com- 
paratively few poems of grief, though innumerable poems of 
parting), there is always die unchangmg sorrow which springs 
effortlessly to the mmd of the poet when he is least conscious 
of betrayal Sorrow is there — ^not m the shape of the belle dame 
sans mera^ who never appears in Chinese poetry, but m the shape 
of the parched fields and flooded valleys of their homeland, in 

the hysteria which is so close to the Chinese spirit, and even m 
the irony. Let us take a simple poem by Tu Mu: 


Silver Candles^ autumn nighty a cool screen^ 

Soft silksy a tiT^Jan to catch thejire-jlies. 

On the stone stairs the night breathes cool as water. 

I sit and watch the Herd-b(^ and idle Weaving-girh 

It is all so simple that it seems to flow out with the breath. 
Nothing is concealed, a whole world, almost a whole civilisa- 
tion is revealed, but the concrete images of the first line are 
whirled away among the stars m the last. It is not a trick: it is 
something which came naturally to him, and we shall see it 
again in Wang Wei and a thousand other poets — ^the concrete, 
immediate thiag slowly disappeanng across the horizon, fading 
into ghostliness. The peach-blossom follows the moving water, 
the white birds fade mto the faint emerald of the hills, nothing 
is lasting, all disappears, and yet — ^the poet seems to be saying 
— how delightful to watch the progress of the world. 
Compare this with a poem written a few years ago: 


Biding on a shniy horse 

comes dimfyjrom the wood 
and out oj ihe morning mist 
and returns dimlj into the mist. 

Day after daj 
he is carried unsteadily 
he knows not where 
on his sword there is 
a little dtxst^ 
a little rusty 
a htdejrosty 
a little brightnesSy 

a htde blood shining in the morning sunl 

U'h deuKiiBtrably the same world, the same landscape, the 
k&d of vision. The tautness of the T'ang dynasty is absent, 

*1^ S.M', txaaaslaJ»d by Yu Mm-cbuui 


but something almost as precious has come to take its place — a 
more complex arrangement of forces, a more mtensive under- 
standing of suflfenng, a greater suggestiveness. The poem, 
however, is not characteristic of modem poetry m the sense 
that Tien Chien's poetry is charactenstic of our time. The 
sadness remams, but over and above the sadness there has been 
heard durmg the present wars the sounds of battle and lamenta- 
tion, a deeper and harsher note to remind us that the world has 
changed mto the direction of steel Though the current of the 
eternal nver is the same, it is now dyed more deeply red with 
blood. So we can expect m the poems written in the last thirty 
years (and more particularly in the poems wntten in the last 
ten years), the harshness and dissonances we have come to expect 
m our own reiterations of a wasteland, where there is no sound 
of water and there are only red rocks And what is cunous is 
that the spiritual landscape of the West, the landscape in which 
T. S. Eliot has his home, is very similar to north China — ^the 
endless plains of loess, the huts dug m caves, the railway Imes 
broken and the eagles festemng on the bodies near the river, 
yet the Chinese poets, who live m such a landscape, are not con- 
scious that they have been betrayed out of the granite hardness 
and small comfort of their home they have built a world m which 
they have formed their own peace. Such a world can be seen in 
the poetry of Ai Chmg, and even more obviously in the poetry 
of Tien Chien, Out of sands and wmd they have made a continent 
as colourful as any that poets have made before them. 

The western reader, reading Chmese poetry in a translation 
which must always fail to convey the sensuous quahty of the 
Chinese characters, misses also the coJour of a Chinese page. 
Those large editions of the Chmese poets prmted m the Ming 
Dynasty, on a nch brown paper which fades a little, but only a 
little, with age; the large characters, the little red, blue and 
yellow circles which describe the passages which elicited the 
admiration of himous commentators ; the sheer sweep and mag- 
nificence of those crackhng pages — all these are missmg, m the 
same -way that we miss the ragged miniscule printmg and pulpy 
yellow paper of the war-tune editions. There is a solidity in 
the Chinese page which is denied to us, and there is a peculiarity 
m the structure of the Chinese character which gives it the effect 
of being eternal, as a building sometimes seems to be eternal. 
If we could prmt translations of Chinese in the capital letters 


whicli appear on the Trajan colmnn, we might approximate to 
their permanence ; but we shall never realise the beauty of Chinese 
poetry imless it is printed on a Chinese page 

There are other things we miss, the quality of their sensuality, 
which IS more robust and at the same time more allusive than 
our own. There is a short poem m the Book of Songs called 
In the Wood lay a dead Doe, which has had endless imitators 
and followers. Li Chin-fa, a Chinese sculptor who studied in 
Paris, wrote; 

With my presumptuous fingers^ 

Ijelt the warmth c^jour shn 
Young deer went wandering in a wood : 

Only the scent of the dead leaves remain , 

and the contemporary poet Sun Chin-san wrote m a similar vein, 
using the same image which derives from across the centuries: 

Without ary experience of hunting , 

I do not know wly there anses in my mindy 
A longing to hunt some wild fox in the night 

On such a movy night ho(f -beats are sweet and intoxicating : 
Stealing in between the yebrows like a seagull, 

Diving into the lake to catch a fish, 

A flake snow pecks the curious quiver of the heart A 

Sensmlity could hardly go fiirther. Our own sensuality, which 
comes from a homosexual Greece and a passionately heterosexual 
Judaea, is more confused, less direct and not so menacmg. The 
* Chinese have no shame in usmg sexual images The Entrance to 
the Female is a part of Taoism, and even the Peach Blossom 
Fountain can be read in other ways than a return to some pnmitive 
ancestral tribe. Th^yang and the jm remain, both powerful, both 
majestic, and all-embracing This is not, like ours, a male 
civilisation, but one in which the male and the female are held in 
an unwavering equality, a civilisation still based on the ritual of 
the masons and on the communion of man and woman. 

We mm too the compellmg force of the Chinese characters, 
for though they no longer evoke in die Chinese mind the pictures 
on which they were onginally formed, they can still sometimes 

Sfeowy l^ight, hj Sxm Qan-«n translated by Yu Min-cfauan 


produce an immediate image of the thing seen, especially when 
a string of nouns are joined together: 

Dark room ghost green fire 
Yin Fang Kuei Ch'in Huo'^ 

says Tu Fu, and there is no need for nouns or adverbs ; the picture 
is there in all its fulness, possessing the pnmitive force of an 
incantation, so that we see the thing described with an immediacy 
which is demed to us when the page is filled with enclitics. So, 
but in a different sense, we miss the sobbmg sounds which come 
at the end of each short Ime of Chu Yuan. There is the colour 
of the Chinese page, and the colour of the high-strung Chinese 
voice, and both of these are demed to us. 

But what remains is the spirit of Chmese song. Not all is lost 
m translation, and occasionally, as in the poems of Po Chu-i 
translated by Mr. Waley, somethmg is indeed g^ed The 
Chinese lync is so close in feelmg to ours, their feeling for the 
countryside is so much like ours, their best sharing so greatly 
the emotions which are shared by ours that we are m danger of 
forgettmg sometimes that we belong to different worlds, almost 
different universes. There are bridges between the two civilisa- 
tions, There are paths we have travelled which lead inevitably 
to China. And smce we share their sorrows, their griefe, and their 
hopes, there is no reason why we should not share their joys, 
even tliough their joys m the past were simpler than ours. We 
must make these bridges, or perish We shall learn some of their 
secrets from their poetry. When, like Feng Fei-ming, a modem 
poet who IS nearly always too tenuous to translate, we lay aside 
the books, the imagmation becomes filled with the evocations 
of such simple things that we are surprised that we did not notice 
them before: 

Sm^ing at the dead hour, 

Having laid aside the Tao Teh Ching, 

I seem to have made awc^ with fortune, and the evil and the 
Which once assembled together in this room ^remorse. 

It is too strange — not like picking up a jhwer with a smile. 
There was a fob m the water: 

^ Occasionally in Latm something of the same ejBfect is gained 
nuhila sol iwbres mx rontifulmina grando 
clouds sim rams snow wmds hghtning (Lucretius* V, 1 192) 
but though there are other passages-^there is one m I^dentius — ^the western languages 
are usually unable to bear the weight of such h«iyy associations 


The cat did not catch thejish. 

I remember one winter night a mouse walbng on the carpet, 
The crj a night-pedlar like the music of the stars. 

Again I think ^ the line that delighted mj youth , 

A fish IS the flower of water^* 

The light of the lamp itself seems to have written a poem 
Of too great a solitude to be read bj me. 

Laughing “J respect jour illumination”. 

Then the lamp begs me to listen to the watchmen of the night,^ 

Of such simple things, and of such quietness, is Chinese 
poetry made. The fish becomes a flower, the lamp writes a poem 
and the mouse walks across the carpet, and at the same time 
battles are fought, men starve on the wayside, the corpses are 
piled high, and yet the simplicity remains It is part of the 
secret — ^to find the simplest things of life and celebrate them. 
It is not always easy. We have nearly always aimed high in our 
poetry, the Chinese deliberately aimed at the earth, away from 
the angehc hosts, and made something which is umversal, 
because it is common to all men There is a sense in which this 
is their greatest glory. They contnved to write poetry without 
dreaming, they saw clearly, and it was not their fault that they 
saw with so much sadness. The land was impemtent. No gods 
could make it richer. With their own strength they made the 
landscape, and their poetry for all its quietness is the sign of 
their spiritual strengdi. 

And so it will go on, this poetry which is eternal, like the 
people, more lasting perhaps than ours, and in its humanity 
more vigorous Out of a few things — the bodies and loves of men, 
the com growing, the white cliffs in the water, they have made 
their sacrifices. They complained of the impermanence of things, 
but they were themselves the most permanent They cared only 
for humanity: their character for love or benevolence is two 
men standing together. The chains remain unbroken. From the 
earliest times to the present day, the same themes are repeated, 
the same images reappear, the same metal is hammered mto shape. 
We who are constantly changing, at the mercy of every influx of 
scientific ideas, may do well to ponder sometimes the poetry of 
these people who are as unchangmg as the stars. 

^ Feng Fei-xamg* The Lamp, translated by Yu Mm-chuan. 



It has seemed best to translate the poems as simply and 
literally as possible, and to avoid foot-notes wherever possible. 
The Chmese has therefore been translated line by line — ^without 
rhyme, for to have succeeded m rhyme would have necessitated 
paddmg out the lines or so changing their forms that they would 
have become imrecognisable Legge's translations of the Book oj 
Songs m his edition of the Chinese Classics is still a model for all 
translators, but his latest attempts to put them mto rhymed 
English verse are among the sorriest translations yet seen Nor 
have we attempted, with Mrs. Ayscough, to seek out the origmal 
meanings of the Chinese characters and to attempt to mtroduce 
them mto the translation that the character for “autumn" 
contains the “gram" radical and the character for “fire" is not im- 
mediately perceived by the Chmese reader any more than we 
perceive the god Autumnus. The Chmese reader sees almost the 
same autumn that we do, hardly coloured at all by thoughts of 
gram or scorching. 

We have aimed then at literal translations, without para- 
phrases and without any attempt to recapture the sounds of the 
original or to follow the exact pattern of the syllabic line. 
Sometimes, as m the Book of Songs and the Tao Teh Ching it has 
been necessary to msist on the shortest possible expression of 
the line, simply because the original is short and acquires much 
of its beauty precisely from the close-packed effect of the lines. 
Almost all of the Book oJ Songs is written m four-syllable lines ; 
the length of the lines m the Tao Teh Chang vanes enormously, 
but It is evident that they are as close-packed as anything 
contained in Chmese poetry. To translate the third Ime of the 
first poem of the Tao Teh Ching mcluded here with fourteen 
English words, as Mr. Waley does, suggests a delight in mere 
verbiage which is absent from the original, where there are 
only four characters. But occasionally, and more often than we 
would have wished, it has been necessary to translate the Chmese 
by far more words than there are m the ongmal. 

The Miltonic overflow is completely absent from Chmese 


poetry. Each line, or each couplet, has an identity of its own, 
almost self-sufficient. Such a pattern might m other hands make 
for dulness, but it is remarkable how even a long poem like 
Tu Fu^s Journ^ to the Norths though written m smgle lines or 
couplets, is impelled forward by the movement of the poet's 
thought. A more static effect is produced by Li Ho's long 
evocation of his native landscape, but here it is deliberate, and 
we have deliberately attempted to reproduce the static effect 
The translation of Chinese poetry is not a comfortable task, 
there are too many difficulties, too many insurmountable 
barriers between the two languages. But it is to be hoped that 
there will be an end to all attempts at rhyme, and that Chmese 
poetry will always be translated into Enghsh with the fewest 
number of additional words. 



I am chiefly mdebted to the Marqms D'Hervey-Samt-Denys^ 
Toesies de VEpoque des Thang (Paris, 1862) which first led me to 
believe that it imght be possible to produce an anthology of 
Chinese poetry from the earliest times to the present day, and to 
discussions with my friends Dr. Pu Chiang-hsmg, Dr. Wen 
Yi-tuo and Professor Shen Yu-tmg, who on one wintry night in 
Kunming were kmd enough to suggest the names of the main 
poets who should be mcluded I am very conscious of a debt to 
James Legge's monumental edition of die Book of Songs and to 
Mr Waley's two excellent books The Waj and its Tower and 
The Book of Songs, though I have occasionally differed jfrom his 
interpretations and find it difficult to accept his opmion that 
Legge did not realise the true nature of the odes. 

I owe especial gratitude to Professor Shen Yu-ting for his 
translation of the Nine Songs of Chu Yuan, to Professor Yang 
Yeh-tzu for his translations of Tao Yuan-ming, to Mr. Ho 
Chih-yuan for his versions of Li Ho, to Professor Pu Chiang- 
hsing for his versions of Tu Fu and to the translators of the 
modem poems — Professor Yu Min-chuan, who also translated 
the Stone Drums, Professor Yuan Chia-hua for his help at all 
times and for his translation of the poems of Ts"en Ts^an, to 
Professor Pien Chih-lm for his selection and translation of his 
own poems, to Miss Hsiung Tmg for her translations of Li Ho 
Chou, to Mrs Sophia Chen for her translations of Li Ch"mg- 
chao, to Mr. Ching Ti for his translations of Po Chu-i, to Mr. 
Chu Chun-I of Tien Chien, to Mr Pei Chwen-yu for his translation 
of Lu Yu. 

The unsigned translations are by the editor, but with so 
much assistance from so many Chmese scholars in the exiled 
University of Lienta jn Kunming that it is better they should 
remain anonymous. 



No one knows when the Book of Songs was written, or 
whether Conjfucius compiled them We know that he read them 
and encouraged his son Po Yu to read them, paying particular 
attention to the Chao Nan and the Chou Nan which are mostly 
love-songs, and he went on to say that one who does not study 
them is like “one who stands with his face against a wall”. All 
mystery, all mathematics were contained in them. Obeying 
their music a man might enter heaven — ^he would assuredly 
never enter heaven vrithout them. 

No poetry could be simpler than these ancient odes. This is 
not folk poetry, but the poetry of enchanted experience, of 
grave sadness and a delighted awareness m the beauty of the earth. 
Here the rice-fields are flowing with gold, the lovers bathe m 
the streams, there are white rocks and waterfalls and herons 
perchmg on cliffs, and it is as though the beginning of the world 
had come again — ^not dazzling, but quietly splendid, confronting 
us with the calm majesty of human lives lived to the full Above 
all, they are human with an adult humanity. They are not afraid 
of sex, but delighted m it with coarseness, with gentleness, 
with the grace of the supremely civilised. We see the same 
clear landscapes m the pamtings of the Yuan Dynasty, where 
nearly always there is a white horse or a white heron impertm- 
ently occupying the foreground, throwing the mountains and the 
mists into clear relief. There must always be something livmg 
in a Chinese landscape: you may look for an hour, but some- 
where beneath those cliffs you will find a man walking So it is 
with their ancient poetry: tifcie men and women who wrote them 
were supremely alive. 

Poetry here is stripped to the skin, not stripped to the bone. 
There is no hardness, nor any luxury. The girl lifts her skirt as 
she wades across the stream, pennons fly on die edge of the rice- 
fields, even in those days there were seducers — ^but how charit- 
ably they are forgiven, and with what wealth of detail they are 
described — no more than a few brush-strokes, but the fox is 


described to us for ever. In the poem called Tsai Chou (the Clear- 
ing of the Fields), the fruits of the earth and the fruits of man 
are curiously mterwoven mto a complete pattern of serene 
accomplishment It was life* lived according to ritual and the 
seasons, before men learned to conceal themselves in cities, a 
life which was so full that it bursts out of the page, as the seeds 
burst out of a pomegranate, three thousand years after they 
were first sung on the fields near the Yellow Baver. 

We do not know even the exact meanmg of words written 
a few years ago. Who can say what Dante meant by “love’^ when 
he wrote: 

Tutti h mm penser parlan d^AmorCy 

since the meaning of love changes with every lover, and with 
every change of historical evolution. Love for the Egyptians was 
not the same as love for the Greeks. But the translator of Chinese 
poetry is faced with greater difficulties than the translator of 
Dante : there is not one single word in these anaent poems whose precise 
significance we understand Anyone taking up, for example, Legge^s 
edition of the Book oj Songs is startled to find how much of the 
meanmg and mterpretation depends upon mspired guesswork 
Inspired guesswork it must remain imtil the Pentecost descends 
upon us 

But if we fail in attemptmg to find an absolute mterpretation 
of each character, we are helped by the simplicity of the poems. 
As always, the fewest brush-strokes are the best. If we translate 
with the fewest possible words, attempting to give each word in 
English somethmg of the livmg character of a Chinese symbol, 
and if we remember that all these songs were once sung, there is 
a chance that we may see these people as they were. They were 
more glorious in that childhood of their race than they are now ; 
something of that glory survives m the famous nmeteen Han 
poems, but it is already fading. These songs are the brightest 
things that came out of that bright landscape, where there are 
the brightest skies in the world 

They are the songs of a people genumely in love with life, 
still alive to the glitter of bright colours — ^nearly every poem 
contams a colour adjective, and the colours are freshly seen and 
never described, so that we seem to be entering a world of pure 
yellows, pure greens, pure carmmes, a world where no shadows 
fall and where everything is as it is, not clouded over with a 


suffused reflected glare from the earth but with the brightness 
of the sun shming at noonday — ^and in this world of harmonised 
colours, among rituals and delight in vegetation, the lovers 
appear to us, as they appear in the ^tapestries of Gobelms and in 
some early Italian paintings, with an immediacy that is almost 
bewildermg. They smg like birds; they make love like adults; 
they are aware of all die simplicities which are enclosed within 
the hallowed conception of Tien, which is not the heaven we 
know, but the mysterious government of the blue sky at noon. 
It IS a world comparable in its pure mtensity with the world of 
the scops and the trouveresy and it is perhaps not surprising that 
two of the poems included in the Book oj Songs should seem to be 
echoes of one of the most famous aubades • 

II n*est me jours y 
Saverouze au corps genty 
Si ait amors 
Valouette nos mant . . 

Here, too, in a country otherwise so strange to us, we see the 
pure skies of Provence and Italy, the gentleness and vigour of a 
new race awakening into awareness, the bird-song, the nakedness 
and the peace. Here are the same walled dykes, the same cart- 
loads of peasants returning from a Jiestay the same eagerness and 
unchallenged vigour. Holderlm, coming over the storm-swept 
Auvergne in wmter, thought he saw in the descendants of the 
trouvires a god-like beauty and a divine skill; so may we, coming 
across the storm-swept heights of another language and another 
century, see these people in the untrammelled vigour of their 

We shaU never know where they came from, and how they 
suddenly sprang into song. These songs are not the imaginations 
of a primitive people: die Chmese at the time of Confucius 
already possessed a consciousness of the ancientness of their 
civilisation. There were wars before Homer: there is the same 
bitterness in these soldiers^ songs which we have learned to read 
today. But chiefly they are songs of joy and the sadness that comes 
from joy. They are wholly proven9al, but they have something 

^ It 15 not daylight 
O sweet one with the gentle body, 

So love help me, 

The lark lies to ns 

of the tenderness we associate with the English religious lyrics 
of the fourteenth century, when the lyrical feeling was still 
associated with prayer, and they have something too of the old 
English ballads . 

Maiden in the mot laj^ 

In the mor laj^ 

Seuenyst Julie, seuenist Julie 
Maiden in the mor lay, 

In the mor laj 
Seuenistes Julie ant a daj 

It IS the heart speaking quietly and passionately and with full 
strength, before the heart was imprisoned There was sadness m 
joy, and joy in sadness, and the language is not littered up with 
the names of complex emotions. A simplicity, as of pure sunlight, 
enters these poems and warms them until they are ablaze 

Those who know proven^al poetry will recognise the part- 
songs, the ballettes, the rondes and the tensons they will almost 
hear the antiphonal voices, and see the colours of the women's 
gowns as they sing by their fires m winter Occasionally they will 
notice a metallic brightness of colour — ^somewhere under the 
trees a chariot is waiting. Like gypsies, the ancient Chmese liked 
bright things. Gold, silver and copper were known to them 
The ivory of elephants' teeth was sent in tribute by the tribes of 
central Chma. The tops of their lances were silvered or gilt, 
the ends of their bows were ornamented with wrought ivory 
It was a society m which the unseen powers of heaven were felt 
to be continually present: their bronze vessels contamed the 
portraits of thimderheaded dragons It was a time of war, of 
unending battles against the wild tnbes of the frontiers, but it 
was also a time of consolidation They were growing conscious 
of themselves, but they were also growmg conscious of that 
strange coherent thing that we were later to know as China 
It was a time also of leisure, of fentastic processions, of 
simple feasts and communal living. There is little of the allusive- 
ness which charactenses T'ang Dynasty pamting, nor did they 
rend their passions into tatters Already they possessed complex 
musical instruments- but their lives were simple and regulated 
accordmg to the pattern of the seasons and the precepts of the 
philosophers. They hked riding m chariots, vnth bells hanging 


from the decorated bronze hoops — Confucius preferred 
charioteering to archery — ^and they delighted in ceremonies 
It was an essentially feudal civilisation, there was some kind of 
caste system and sometimes there wSs great poverty. There is 
bitterness in some of the poems — ^we hear the unmistakable 
accents of some forerunner of Tu Fu m some of them. But 
afterwards, when we have finished readmg them, we remember 
only the serenity and the passion which brought this serenity 
into being. 

As often m the history of poetry, the beginnmgs are the 
greatest From this point Chmese poetry runs downhill. They 
were never to recapture this hallowed sense of perfection of the 
life. The fruit-tree would be cultivated; the flowers more 
numerous, and possessing other colours ; there would be strange 
accretions, and still stranger cuttmgs implanted from the deserts 
of the north-west; but the garden would never be so beautiful 
agam. We may regret its passing, and we may regret still more 
that the young Chinese of today are almost ignorant of these 
poems on which the whole of Chinese civilisation rests, as a 
river rests within its embankments, but at least, the songs still 
sing for us — ^they are there, Adam awake in the garden for the 
first time. 



Pure IS the wl\ite pony, 

Feeding on the young shoots in my stackyard. 
Keep him hobbled, keep him bridOied, 

Let him stay through all mornings. 

So may my lover 
Here take his ease. 

Pure IS the white pony, 

Feedmg on the bean-sprouts m my stackyard. 
Keep him hobbled, keep him bridled. 

Let him stay through all evenings 
So may my lover 
Here have his peace. 

Pure is the white pony 
Who comes to me swiftly. 

Like a duke, like a marquis, 

Let us enjoy ourselves completely, 

Let us prolong our love-making, 

Let us take our ease. 

Pure is the white pony 
Who lies in the empty valley 
With a bimdle of fresh hay. 

He IS like a piece of jade. 

O do not be like gold or jade. 

Do not go far from my heart! 


Heiho, the Sun in the East* 
This lovely man 
Enters my chamber, 

Enters my chamber, 

And steps through my door. 


Heiho, the Sim in the East! 

This lovely man 
Enters my garden, 

Enters my garden, 

And steps over the threshold 


The cold north wind blows, 
Down falls the snow 
Love me, be good to me. 

Take my hand, go with me. 

Why do you Imger so ? 

O, let us go* 

The cold north wind whistles, 
Down whirls the fallmg snow. 
Love me, be good to me, 

Take my hand, go with me. 

Why do you linger so? 

O, let us go! 

Only the red fox. 

Only the black crow — 

Love me, be good to me. 

Take my hand, go with me. 

Why do you Imger so? 

O, let us go* 


She gathers white asters 
By the pool, by the tmy islands. 
She oflFers them 
In sacrifice to her lord. 

She gathers white asters 
Down m the ravines. 

She offers them 

In the ancestral temple of her lord. 

Her headdress is trembling 

In the early dawn she enters the pnnce's palace. 

Her headdress softly trembling, 

She returns to Iier room 


The small stars are tremblmg. 

Three or four m the East. 

Reverently through the night we come. 

In the early dawn we go from the prmce^s palace. 
Our fates are not equal ^ 

The small stars are trembling, 

Orion and the Pleiades, 

Reverently through the night we come, 

Covered m quilts and satins. 

Our fates are not equal ^ 


Fallmg leaves, falling leaves, 

The winds blow you away. 

O uncles, O elders. 

Set the tune and we will join you. 

Falling leaves, falhng leaves, 

The wind makes you merry. 

O uncles, O elders, 

Set the tune and we will play. 

^ The poem cjescnbes the concubjnes of the pnnce who return to their quarters in the 
early monung. According to later practice, wmch may still have existed at the time of the 
Chou princes, the concubines were taken by eimuchs, wrapped m silks, through the 
courtyards, an4 then laid at the foot of the prmce’s bed, tlie snks being taken away from 
them The complamt is against the wife of me prmce, while the small stars are of course 
both the famt stars of d^wn and the concubmes themselves 




Green, green are the rush-leaves, 
White dew turns to frost. 

That man I love 
Is somewhere on the water. 

I seek him upstream- 
Hard is the road and long. 

I seek him down-river. 

O, he IS there in mid-stream. 

Thick, thick grow the rush-leaves. 
White dew not yet dry. 

The man I love 

Is on the margm of the water. 

I seek him upstream: 

Hard is the way and steep. 

I wander down-river. 

O, he IS on an islet in mid-stream. 

Sweet, sweet are the rush-leaves, 
White dew not yet over. 

The man I love 

Is on the edge of the water, 

I follow him up-nver: 

Hard is the way to the right. 

I wander down-river. 

O, he IS on an island in mid-stream. 


The lady says; “It is cockcrow”. 

The knight says: “Dawn has not yet come”. 

Shfe says ; “Get up, look at the sky, 

The morning star is glimmering. 

Get up, he-a-bed! 

* Harpoon the duclss, harpoon the geese! 


when you have harpooned them, 

I shall serve them with dressing 
We shall drink wine together, 

We shall grow old together. 

With the lute and the pipe beside you, 

There will be peace and happmess between us* 

When I know your friends are coming, 

I will offer them girdle-pendants* 

When I know your friends are on the way, 

I shall send girdle-pendants to them. 

When I know your sworn brothers are on the road, 
I will bestow girdle-pendants on them.” 


Heiho, my coat is green, 

Green coat with yellow Iming. 

O, the grief of my heart. 

Will it never cease? 

Heiho, my coat is green, 

Green coat with yellow-green skirt. 
O, the grief of my heart. 

Will It never cease? 

Heiho, the green threads. 

How could I have sewn them. 
Thmking of how he loved me, 

I will not hold it agamst him. 

Heiho, the coarse cloth. 

The cold wmds blow through it. 
Thmking of the way he loved me, 
How he held me to his heart.^ 

* Presumably the song of an abandoned concubine until recently concubmes were green. 



What of the night ^ 

The torches are blazing in'^the palace yard, 
My lord is commg. 

Tmg-hng sound the phoenix bells. 

What of the night? 

The night is not yet over 

The torches are smoking in the palace yard, 

My lord is commg. 

Ching-ching sound the phoenix bells. 

What of the night? 

The night nears dawn 

The torches are dimmmg in the palace yard. 
My lord is commg. 

I see his banners 


The Firewood is bound and wound, 

The three stars m the sky. 

Tomght or tomorrow night 
I will see my good lover. 

^ mil ^ mil 

Who will be my sweet lover? 

The Hay-sheaf is bound and woimd, 

The three stars on the edge of the sky. 
Tonight or tomorrow night 
I will see him. 
mil ^ mil 

How shall we meet together? 

The Wild-thom is bound and wound. 

The three stars near the door. 

Tonight or tomorrow night 
I shall see my darling, 
ily mil ily mil 
Who will he be? 



In the wood lay a dead doe 
Covered over with white rushes 
The lady was sighing for the Spring: 
A fine teight lay over her. 

In the forest of the oakenshaws, 

In the wasteland lay a dead doe. 
White rushes strewn over her: 

O lady fair as jade. 

“Please, sir, do not touch me”. 
“Please, sir, don't take my kerchief”. 
“Don't make my dog bark”. 


The slender yoimg peach-tree, 

The flowers ablaze. 

The young brides are gomg home, 
Bringing fruit to chamber and house. 

The slender young peach-tree, 

How the fruit swells! 

The young brides are gomg home, 
Bringing fruit to chamber and house. 

The slender young peach-tree. 

With glossy shining leaves. 

The young bndes are gomg home, 
Bringing fruit to chamber and house. 



Thick grow the plantams. 

Now we go and gather them 
Thick grow the plantams — 

Now they lie m our hands 

Thick grow the plantams. 

Now we pluck the npe ears* 

Thick grow the plantams — 

Look how they he on the stems. 

Thick grow the plantams. 

Our skirts are piled high with them. 

Thick grow the plantams 

We loop up our skirts over our belts ^ 


There is a rainbow m the east. 

No one dares to point at it. 

The girls have run away 

Far from father and mother, far from brothers. 

A rainbow mounts in the west. 

All morning the ram falls in showers. 

The girls have gone away 

Far from father and mother, far from brothers. 

O you young girl 

Who only desired to be married. 

A boy has been false to you. 

This is not heaven ^s will. ® 

^ The conunentators say that the plantain was held to assist childbearing, but a much 
simpler interpretation remains possible 

* Cdlective mamages were held when the rambow was shining (See Granet, Danses et 
hgeadu de Ja Chine ancienae H, f03) The rainbow which bears tbe fertility ^mbol m the 
Chinese character seems to have been a fetish, both feared and adored 



Kwang - Kwang cry the mallards 
On the island in the river 
Such a noble young lady 
Were fit bride for her lord. 

There grow the tangled marsh-mallows, 

Left and right you will see them. 

Such a noble young lady, 

Waking and sleeping he will see her 

He sought her, could not find her , 

Waking and sleepmg, he grieved. 

He longed for her with long thoughts, 

And tumbled over on his side 

There grow the tangled marsh-mallows, 

Left and right you may gather them 

For this noble young lady 

We will sing with small and great flutes. 

There grow the tangled marsh-mallows. 

Left and right you may choose among them. 

Such a noble yoxmg lady — 

With bells and drums we will gladden her heart. 


Magpie has a nest, 

Dove dwells m it: 

This girl is gomg to be married — 

Hundreds of chariots are drivmg to meet her! 

Magpie has a nest, 

Dove enters it* 

This girl is gomg to be married — 

Hundreds of chariots are dnvmg to meet her! 


Magpie has a nest, 

Dove covers it: 

This girl is going to be married — 
Hundreds of chanots ridmg m splendour! 


Ah, Sun, ah, Moon 

Which shine upon the earth below. 

There is a man 

Who will not keep faith. 

How can he keep his oath? 

Better if he had never seen me! 

Ah, Sun, ah. Moon, 

Which shadow the earth below. 

There is a man 
Who will not be true. 

How can he keep his troth? 

Better if he had never sworn oath to me. 

Ah, Sun, ah, Moon, 

Which rises in the east, 

There is a man 
Who says no truth 
How can he be true? 

Does he thmk he can forget me? 

Ah, Sun, ah, Moon, 

Which rises from the east, 

O father, O mother. 

Why was I ever bom? 

How can he keep his oath? 

Loving me beyond all reason? 



There is a fqx ambling along 
By the dam of Ch^i 
O my heart is sad. 

She has no skirt on. 

There is a fox amblmg along 
By the deep ford of ChT 
O my heart is sad — 

She has no girdle. 

There is a fox amblmg along 
By the banks of Ch"i. 

O my heart is sad — 

She has no clothes on. 


Ling-hng go the hounds 

Their master so handsome and good. 

The hounds with the double rmg, 

The master so handsome and bearded. 
The hounds with the treble nng, 

The master so handsome and strong 


Bright shmes the new tower: 

The waters of the nver are muddy. 

She hoped for a fine gentle lover, 

But received only coarse bamboo cloth. 

Clean shines the new tower: 

The waters of the river are dark and secret. 
She hoped for a fine gentle lover, 

But received only strips of old broadcloth. 

4 ^ 

The fishnets are sprung, 

The wild geese fall m them 
She hoped for a fine gentle lover, 

And received only "the stiff-necked one’’.^ 


0 yellow bird, yellow bird, 

Do not settle on the poppy. 

Do not peck my millet-seed, 

For the people here 

Do not want me to feed 

1 must go back, I must go home 
To my own people, my own land 

0 yellow bird, yellow bird, 

Do not settle on the mulberry. 
Do not peck my maize-seed. 
With the people of this land 
There can be no covenant. 

1 must go back, I must go home 
To where my brothers are. 

0 yellow bird, yellow bird, 

Do not settle on the oak. 

Do not peck my wine-millet 
With the people here 

1 cannot dwell. 

I must go back, I must go home 
To my own folks, ^ 

^The anaent commentators desenbe the poem as a satire on the marriage between 
Duke Suen (B C 718-699) and Suen Chiang The “new tower” and the “wild goose” are 
of course the bnde, the “muddy watei^ is the bridegroom The bitterness m the poem 
may also anse from Duke Suen’s wasteful wars, which depopulated the state For a similar 
satire on a royal weddmg, compare “The frog he would awoomg go” 

* In pnaent“<ky China there is still the sense of being a stranger m the neighbouunng 



O why should the sight of your cloth cap 
Fill me with such longing? 

My heart is aflame with gnef. 

O why does the sight of your cloth coat 
Spear my heart with grief 
Enough * I have fallen in love. 

O why does the sight of your cloth leggmgs 
Tangle my heart m knots? 

Enough! Let us be joined together! 


We clear the grasses and trees, 

We plough and carve the land, 

Two thousand men and women scrabbling weeds 
Along the low wet lands, along the dyke-walls 
The masters, the eldest sons, 

The labourers, the hired servants. 

They mark out the fields, they ply their coulters, 
Overflowing food-baskets are brought to them. 

They gaze on their fair wives 
And press close to them 
They have sharp ploughshares, 

They set to work on the south acres, 

They sow the many kinds of gram, 

Each seed holds a moist germ, 

Splendidly, splendidly the young grain shoots forth. 
Sleekly, sleekly the young plants arise, 

Tenderly, tenderly comes the young grain. 

Thousands of weeders scrabbhng among the weeds! 

Host upon host of reapers ^ 

Close-huddled stooks arranged m due order ^ 

Myriads, many himdred thousands and millions of grains! 
From them come wme and sweet liquor, 


Offering to the ancestors, the male and the female, 
In fulfilment of sacrifices. 

So glory shall come to the land. 

They will have a sharp smell of* pepper, 

They will give comfort to the aged. 

It is not only here that it is so, 

It is not only now that it is so : 

But in most ancient times ever and ever. 


Swee - Swee go the sharp shares 

There where they are working in the south acre, 

Sowmg the many kinds of gram, 

Each seed holding a moist germ. 

The women come to gaze at us, 

They bring round and square baskets 
Filled with fine millet, 

Wearing finely woven straw hats. 

They dig their hoes deep in the earth. 

They slice away smartweed and thistle-briar 
Where thistle-briar and smartweed have grown rotten, 
The millet grows to sheer heights. 

Rustling of the reaping. 

Plumping of fat sheaves, 

Pilmg like a heaped wall 
Shaped like a toothed comb, 

A himdred bams open to receive them. 

When the hundred bams are bnmmmg over. 

The wives and children are at peace. 

We sacrifice the yellow black-muzzled bull, 

The bull with the crooked horns. 

So it will be for ever 

According to the wisdom of the sages. 



The springy red bow 
Is taken and laid Sown. 

He is my favourite guest, 

With my whole heart I honour him 
With the bells and drums ringmg 
The whole morning he shall be feasted. 

The springy red bow 
Is placed m its press 
He IS the favoured guest, 

With my whole heart I rejoice in him. 

With bells and drums ringmg 

The whole morning he will sit at my right hand. 

The springy red bow 
Is placed in its case. 

He is my favoured guest, 

With my whole heart I adore him. 

With bells and drums ringmg 

The whole morning I will pledge him m wme,^ 


Thick lies the dew. 

The sim will suck it up to the sky. 

Let us quaff long through the night 
And not till we are drunk wander home. 

Thick lies the dew 
On the heavy grass. 

Let us quaff long through the night. 

Here in the palace drmk to the end. 

1 In the Chou Dynasty a red bow was given by the Emperor as a mark of favour to his 
knights Such a gift was offered by King P’lng to Marquis of Ts*in (Shu Ching, V, 
xxvm, 4 ). Red was the colour of honour in the Chou Dynasty — Whence the red bulls in 
other poems. 


Thick lies the dew 
On the willow and thom-tree. 
Pure are the lord's guests, 
None without great virtue. 

Cypress and yew 
Hang down clusters of leaves. 
Happy are the lord's guests. 
None are without great fame 


He : The gourd has bitter leaves: 

The river is deep at the ford. 

If the river is deep, I shall wade through. 

If the river is shallow, I will hold up my clothes. 

She : The ford is m full flood. 

The pheasant cnes out her complaint. 

The flood will not touch your axle-trees. 

The pheasant is callmg for her mate. 

He : Soo-soo comes the voice of the wild goose. 

As the sim comes out of the east. 

The knight must brmg home his bnde 
Before the ice melts. 

She : I keep beckoning to the boatman, 

But others will cross the ferry before me. 

Others will cross the ferry before me. 

I pine for my lover A 

^ In some parts of China today, among the Miao tribes especially, young lovers sing part- 
songs to e^ other across streams, or the girl will sing from the hills to her lover m the 
valley. Often tibe girl will many the man whose song pleases her most. See The Chinese 
JSartb, by Sben Tseng-wen (London, 1948) 



He is away gathering dohchos. 

For a single* day I have not seen him. 
The day is like three months ^ 

He is away pluckmg southernwood. 
For a single day I have not seen him 
The day is like three autumns^ 

He IS away pluckmg arrowroot. 

For a Single day I have not seen him. 
The day is like three years * 


Thick grow the green thistles 
I cannot fill my shallow basket 
I sigh for my lover, 

And lay the basket on the road 

I climb the rocky cliffs, 

My horse is weary. 

I pour wme from the bronze ewer, 
But still my heart pains me 

I climb the high cliffs, 

My horse dribbles yellow foam. 

I pour out wine from the horn-cup. 
Still my heart is overladen. 

I climb the high uplands, 

On a lame broken-dovm nag. 

My lover is dying. 

How can I cease sobbing? 



My cock-pheasant is flying away. 
Fhng-fmg go the sound of his wings. 
O my love, 

Why are you separated from me? 

My cock-pheasant is flying away. 

From above and below comes his song 
O my pnnce, 

Why have you broken my heart? 

Gaze on the sun and the moon* 

No less endurmg is my love. 

The way is long — 

How can I reach him^ 

O all you young princes, 

You who have known his good deeds, 
He has hatred for none, envies none, 
What has he ever done wrong ?^ 


Truly, the South Mountam — 

It was Yu who apportioned them. 

The marsh lands and highlands he prepared for the plough. 
The descendants tilled them. 

We drew the boimdaries, we set up marking-stones, 

We made out the field shares on the south and east. 

The Heavens are an arch of clouds, 

Multitudinous snow falls. 

Small rain of Spring falls, 

All is made moist. 

Abundance flows down to earth, 

All kinds of grain arise 

^ The last two Imes were quoted by Confuaus (Analects, IX, xxyi) to descnbe the 
cbaiactcr of Tze-lu, his favourite disople. 


The boundaries and marking-stones are drawn clearly: 
Millet-seeds are sown m plenty: 

They will be harvested by the descendants. 

Thence comes wane and food 

To be offered to the dead and to the guests. 

For myriads of years, life without end. 

In the midst of the field are shelters, 

Along the boundaries gourds are set up. 

We slice them, we pickle them. 

We present them to the ancestors* 

So shall the descendants live long. 

Enjoying Heaven’s flavour 

We sacrifice with pure wine, 

We sacrifice the Red Bull, 

We offer him to the ancestors. 

We hold the bell-knife, 

We lay open the hair, 

We receive the fat and the blood. 

The finit-offering follows the flesh-offering, 

So strong-smelling, so sweet-smellmg. 

So hallowed, so shinmg an offenng 
To august ancestors. 

Who reward us with blessings, 

With long life never ending. 


Harvest overflowing, millions of grains of millet and 

The granaries heaped to the roof-beams, 

Myriads and myriads of grams. 

We will prepare wine and sweet liquor, 

We will offer them to the ancestors, 

We will consecrate them in the ceremonies: 
Everywhere blessings will flow dovm on the peoples. 



Do not follow the great chariot: 

You will only raise the dilst. 

Do not think of others^ sorrows 
You will only be ill with grief. 

Do not follow the great chariot 
The dust is dark and dun. 

Do not think of the sorrows of others 
You will never escape from despair. 

Do not follow the great chariot. 

The dust hangs like mist. 

Do not think of others^ sorrows 
You will only be loaded with care. 


The crane cnes m the Nine Pools; 
His voice is heard in the wild. 

The fish sink in the deep 
Or rest among islands. 

There is delight in gardens 
Where sandalwood flowers. 

Beneath the trees are the withered leaves. 
The stones on these hills 
Are good for grindstones. 

The crane cries in the Nine Pools, 
Its voice IS heard in heaven. 

The fish rest among the islands 
Or sink m the deep. 

There is delight m the gardens 
Where sandalwood flowers. 

Beneath the trees are the withered hush. 
The stones on these hills 
Are good for working jade.^ 


O minister of war, 

We are the king^s fangs and claws. 
Why have you piled on us this misery? 
We have no place m which to rest. 

O mimster of war, 

We are the kmg's claws and teeth. 
Why have you piled on us this misery? 
We have nowhere to lay our heads. 

O minister of war. 

Truly you have behaved curiously. 

You have piled on us this misery. 

Our mothers lack food. 


When he measured out the spirit tower 
And drew up the plans. 

Great throngs of people worked on it 
And in no time it was made. 

While it was being built there was no haste; 

The people came m great multitudes. 

^ It IS difficult to understaiid how this song became mcluded among the Songs Even in the 
Chou Dynasty there was great poverty, and another song, not included in the selection 
made by Confucius, reads 

Rather than smk among men 
It is better to swim m the deep. 

He who sinks in the deep 
Should prepare to swim 
He who sinks among men 
Can have no hope of safety. 

The king was in his spirit ^rden. 

The does and stags lay down. 

They were so sleek and fat, 

The white birds were gleaming. 

The king stood near the spirit pool 
Where Sie thick fish came shining. 

He erected the toothed bars 
On which hung great drums and bells. 

These bells and these drums sang together 
There was great joy m the tower in the lake 
These bells and these drums sang together. 
There was great joy m the tower m the lake. 
Boom-boom went the lizard-skin drums. 

The blmd and visionless performed their tasks ^ 


The blmd musicians, the blmd musicians® 

In the courtyard of Chou. 

They have set up their pillars and crossbars, 

With upright plumes and hooks for the drums and bells — 
The small and larger drums are hangmg there. 

The tambourmes, the stone-chimes, the batons and 

When all have been struck the music begins 
Then the pipes and the flutes soimd shrilly 
Sweet IS the music, 

August as the song of birds. 

The ancestors listen: 

They are our guests. 

For ever and ever they gaze on our victories. 

' MeiKjius, m ai famous passage, uterprets the poem as an example of morality, but it is 
diScult not to believe that the poet was extolling the magic virtue of kingly power^ The 
tower m the lake was built by King Wen, the founder of the Qhou Dynasty, near his 
capital, and not far from the place where the Generalissimo was arrested at Sian. 

* Musicians in China are tra^tionally blind. 



Amid the turbulent waters 
The white rocks stand clean. 

With a white coat and a red lappet 
I followed you to Yueh. 

Now that I have seen, my lord, 
Shall I not rejoice? 

Amid the turbulent waters 
The white rocks are washed clean. 
With a white coat and a red lappet 
I followed you to Kao. 

Now that I have seen my lord, 
Why should I be sad? 

Amid the turbulent waters 
The white rocks are dashed clean. 

I have heard that you are wedded 
I dare not talk to you. 


There is a girl in our coach, 

Her face is like falling mallow blossom. 

O they rustle, O they glitter, 

Jades and cornelians hanging from her belt. 

She is the eldest daughter of Chiang — 

Demure and sweet and lovely is she! 

She IS travelhng the same road. 

Her face is like a falling mallow flower. 

O they rustle, O they glitter. 

Tingling go the jade girdle-gems. 

She is the beautiiul eldest daughter of Chiang; 
Her virtue is memorable. 



Heiho, my husband is brave, 

One among millions. 

Watch him swingmg his pole — 
Outrider to the king's chariot. 

My husband has gone to the east. 

My head whirls like flying thistle-down. 
Should I perfume and anomt my hair? 
Why should I try to look pretty? 

Let the ram come, let the ram fall: 

0 the sim shmes all day. 

1 am always dreammg of my husband. 
My head is heavy, my heart is breaking. 

Where shall I find the day-hly 
To plant in the north of my house? 

In gnef I dream of my husband: 

My heart is forlorn. 


Crooked are the thomwood spoons: 
The road to Chou is like a grindstone 
And built straight as an arrow. 

The high officers ride along. 

The commoners gaze at them. 

Full of longmg I gaze after them ; 

My tears flow down in streams. 

In the lesser East and the greater East 
Empty are the shuttles and spools. 
Lightly, lightly go their woven shoes. 
The people walk through the hoarfrost. 


Tweet-tweet go the yoxmg bloods ^ 

Who ride along the road to Chou. 

Empty we come, empty we go 
My heart is full of sorrow 

Cold water flowing from springs, 

Do not soak my bundle of firewood. 

Sorrowfully when we awake, we sigh; 

Alas, we are now deserted. 

Bundles of wood, bundles of firewood. 

I wish I could nde in a carriage. 

Alas, we are now deserted. 

If only there was peace ^ 

The men of the East 

Contmually working, receivmg no comfort. 

The men of the west 

Shimng in their splendid garments ^ 

The sons of the boatmen 
Weanng many kinds of bears’ fur 
The sons of the slaves 
Taking what chance employment 

If they have wine, 

They put up their noses at sauce. 

The girdle-pendants are so long, 

And yet they wish them longer. 

The Milky Way m Heaven 
Shmes on all brightly. 

The Weaving Lady® sits on her stool 
Seven times a day she labours over her loom. 

Seven times a day she labours over her loom, 

Receivmg no shming presents 

The Draught Ox glitters and shines* 

He is not yoked to our carts. 

1 t*iao-t*iao, which I have translated tweet-tweet is a satirically musical expression for the 
mincing gait of the young fops who have obtamed wealth m the city 
* “shining agam is e^qiressed by ts*ao-ts’ao 

® The Weaving Lady is m Lyra, the Draught Ox in Aquila They lie on either side of the 
Milky Way, and once a year they were allowed to meet The Draught Ox later became 
tranifformed into a Herd-boy The Opener of Brightness is the morning star, the Lengthener 
of Roads the evenmg star The Sieve is m the Hyades, and the Winnowing Fan m 


In. the East is the Opener of Brightness, 
In the West is the Lengthener of Roads. 
Curved are the nets of Heav^en: 

They have their appointed places. 

In the South is the Sieve: 

But it cannot sift grain. 

In the North is the Ladle: 

It cannot ladle out wine. 

In the South is the Sieve, 

The holes wide-open 
In the north is the ladle. 

The handle turned to the west. 


O these precipitous rocks 1 
So high, so high! 

The mountains and streams never end, 

The journey goes on and on , 

The soldiers who are sent to the east 
Have no time to rest. 

O these precipitous rocks! 

So high, so high^ 

The mountains and streams never end, 

The journeys never end. 

The soldiers who are sent to the east 
Have no time to settle down. 

There are swine with white trotters 
Wadmg through the swollen stream.^ 

The moon is caught in the Hyades ; 

There will be great rains. 

The soldiers who are sent to the East 
Think only of this. 

^ Sometimes assumed to be an lll>omes, but the trotters may be the soldiers themselves 



All grasses are yellow. 

Every day we are out marching. 

All our men taken, 

Defending the frontier. 

All grasses are purple 
Every day they are taken. 

Alas, for us soldiers, 

Are we not common people? 

We are not buffaloes, nor tigers. 

Then why should we wander these desolate roads? 
Alas, for us soldiers. 

By night and day we have no rest. 

The long-tailed foxes 
Wander m the dark grass. 

We nde in barrows, 

Folio wmg ancient pathways. 


Cold, cold, the wind and the rain, 

The cock crows cocUe^doo, 

I have been to see my lover. 

Why is my heart not at rest? 

The wind whistles and the ram, 

The cock crowM cockle-doo. 

I have been to see my lover. 

Why is my heart not at peace? 

Dark night, wind and rain. 

Cock-crow without end, 

I have been to see my lover. 

Why should I not rejoice? 



Tall she was and fair , 

* r 

Wearing an embroidered robe and linen coat, 

Daughter of the Marquis of Ch"i, 

Wife of the Marquis of Wei, 

Sister of the Prince of Ch^i, 

Sister-m-law of the Marquis of Hsing, 

The Duke of Tan her brother-m-law. 

Her hands like soft blades of grass, 

Her skin like pure lard, 

Her neck like white larvae of beetles. 

Her teeth like rows of melon-seeds. 

Her forehead like a dragonfly, her brows like silkmoths. 
O sweet smiling dimples! 

O blackness and whiteness of her eyes! 

She was so gay, so fair 

When she rested beyond the city walk 

The four stallions so sturdy. 

The red trappings jmgling. 

Screened widi pheasant feathers, ndmg to court. 

O you great officer, retire early 
Do not fatigue our lord 

Vast, vast were the waters of the river 
Flowing northward with majestic force. 
flop-flop went the nets in the water — 

Swarming sturgeon and bream. 

Towering lanes of sedge and reeds. 

Splendid the adornments of her companions, 

Brave were her kmghts-at-arms! 



In the south there are fine fish, 

In multitudes they leap 
The lord offers wine: 

The good guests feast and rejoice. 

In the south there are fine fish, 

In multitudes they glide 
The lord offers wine. 

The good guests feast and are merry 

In the south are trees with drooping boughs, 
Sweet gourds cling to them. 

The lord offers wine: 

The good guests rejoice and are merry. 

The doves are on the wing: 

In their multitudes they come flocking. 

The lord offers wme. 

The good guests rej'oice and are filled. 


Aiyee, so handsome! 

So slender and limber, 

So noble his forehead, 

So lovely his clear eyes, 

Trippmg so lithely, 

So skilful with the bow! 

Aiyee, so glorious,^ 

So lovely his clear eyes, 

So comely his courtesy, 

Shooting all day at the target. 

Never missing the bulTs-eye, 

Truly one of our kinsmen! 

* ming referring to his future destiny The song follows the pattern of a love-song, but 
almost certainly celebrates the prowess of a young prmce 


So noble his brow, 

His dancing so elegant, ^ 
His shooting so nimble, 
With all his four arrows, ^ 
O powerful against war^ 


Strong grow the young reed-shoots! 

With a smgle arrow dbey shoot five wild boars. 

Aiyee, the white tigers! 

Strong grow the young fem-shoots! 

With a smgle arrow they shoot the five wild pigs. 

Aiyee, the white tigers* * 


The petals of the bignonia 
Are deep yellow. 

My heart is heavy. 

Why should they wound me so? 

The petals of the bignonia 
Have deep green leaves. 

If I had known what would come, 

I would prefer not to have been bom. 

The ewes have swollen heads, 

Three Stars m the Fish-trap — 

Though some men find food enough, 

Few have enough to eat.® 

^ Archery was traditionally played to tibe beat of music four arrows would be allotted to 
each contestant and fired omy when be heard the proper note of music. 

* The young fem-^oots and reed-shoots again refer to the young contestants. I take it 

Uiat the or white tiger was a pleasant sobnquet for &e wild boars. 

* A ^^mmUjnt gainst poverty disguised as a love-song, and probably mutating some well- 
known love-smig of the time 



Wet are the roads m the dew. 

Must I walk so early m the morning? 

Must I walk in this thick dew? 

Who said the bird had no beak? 

How else could it pierce my house? 

Who said, “I have no family*’? 

How else could you have pressed your suit? 

You have pressed your smt, 

And should I not enter your family? 

Who said the rat had no teeth? 

How else could it have pierced through my wall? 
Who said, "I have no family”? 

How else could you have pressed your smt? 

You have pressed your smt, 

But I shall not follow you. 


Take up the fish m baskets,^ 
Yellow-jaw, red-ray. 

Our host has vdne, 

Sweet and plenty. 

Take up the fish m baskets. 
Bream and tench. 

Our host has wme, 

Plenty and sweet. 

Take up the fish in baskets, 
White fish and carp. 

Our host has wine, 

Abtmdant and sweet. 

1 Probably the basket suq)ended beneath the slit dam 


The viands will be plenty, 

All of them good 

The viands will be scented, 

And of all lands 

The viands will be piled high, 

And all in due season! 


Rent is the basket at the dam, 
Where bream and carp abound. 
The lady of ChT has come home, 
With a cloud of servitors 

Rent is the basket at the dam. 
Where bream and tench abound. 
The lady of Ch"i has come home. 
With a ram of followers. 

Rent is the basket of the dam, 
The fishes go m and out freely. 
The lady of Ch^i has come home, 
Her attendants are like a stream ^ 


Wmgs of the dragonfly — 

Robes shimng in splendour. 

My heart is gnevmg. 

To whom shall I turn for rest? 

Young wings of dragonflies, 

Robes gaily embroidered. 

My heart is grievmg. 

To whom shall I turn for peace? 

The dragonfly bursts from the cocoon, 
Hemp clothes white as snow. 

My heart is grieving. 

In whom shall I seek my love? 

^ Tbs would ap|>ear to be a song directed against some loose lady of tank. 



You say you have no clothes: 

I will share my quilted gown with you. 
The king is raismg an army. 

I will make ready my spear and lance. 

I will be your comrade. 

You say you have no clothes: 

I will share my vest with you. 

The king is raismg an army. 

I will make ready my spear and halbert. 
And in the ranks join you. 

You say you have no clothes: 

I will share my quilt -with you. 

The king is raismg an army 
I will make ready my jerlon and arms, 
And march along with you. 


Ting, ting goes the woodman ^s axe. 

The bird smgsjing,jing. 

Leave the dark valley, 

Climb the high tree. 

Ying he smgs again, 

Looking for company. 

See how even a bird 
Searches after its mate, 

How can a man dispense 
With comrades and friends? 

Spiritual beings are listening 
Whether we are in harmony and peace. 

Hoc, hoo go the hewers of wood, 

I have stramed my wme clear through the sieve, 
I have a five months" old lamb, 

1 have invited my father"s brothers. 

If they should not come, 


It is not I who neglected them. 

O, everythmg is swept clean — 

Here are meats, here are eight dishes of gram, 

Here a fatted ox. 

I have invited my mother ^s brothers. 

If they should not come. 

Am I to blame? 

They fell the trees on the slopes. 

Such an abtmdance of wine has been strained! 

The dishes are all ready. 

Elder brothers, yotmger brothers — ^all of you come closer. 
If people are wantiog m strength 
Lay the fault to parched throats. 

I stram the wme if I have it, 

If I have none I buy. 

I beat on the drum — boom, hoom^ 

Swiftly I lead the dance 
When there is time on our hands, 

O let us drink pure wine^ 


The good-looking boy 
Is voting for me in ike lane. 

Why should I not go with him? 

The feir-looking boy 
Is waiting for me in the hall. 

Why should I not go with him? 

In my embroidered coat, my cloak of lain, 
In my embroidered skirt, my gown of lain. 
My dear, my darling. 

Take me in your coach! 

In my embroidered skirt, my gown of lain, 
Ih my embroidered coat, my cloak of lam. 
My dear, my darling, 

T^e me witi you when you go home! 



He gave me a qumce, 

I gave him a jade pendant. 
Not in repayment, 

But to make our love lastmg. 

He gave me a peach, 

I gave him an emerald. 

Not in repayment, 

But to make our love lastmg. 

He gave me a plum, 

I gave him black jade, 

Not in repayment, 

But to make our love endure. 


Blue, blue is your collar,^ 

My heart longs for you. 

Even though I do not see you, 
Why do you send me no news? 

Blue, blue is your girdle. 

My heart gneves for you 
Even though I do not go to you, 
Why do you not come? 

So nimble, so changeful. 

There on the tower on the wall — 
One day without seeing you 
Is like three months I 

1 Students wore blue collars up to the time of the Revolution In the old days “blue collar* 
described a graduate of the first class The poem would appear to be a lament by a wife 
when her husband goes up to take the imperial examination, 




The sleek iron-grey horses 
He holds with liis six reins. 

The duke's beloved boy, 

Following the duke on the winter chase. 

The boars in their seasons, 

The boars running wild, 

The duke says. “To your left!” 

Bending the bow, he brings them down. 

In cavalcade through the north gardens 
The teams come prancmg, 

Light chariots with bells at bndle, 
Whippets and greyhounds running beside 


Our chanots so strong, 

Our horses well-matched, 

With four lusty steeds each, 

We yoked and drove eastward. 

So gleaming the hunting chariots, 

So sturdy the four horses. 

To the east are the great grasslands. 

We yoked and set out for the hunt. 

The lords go on the foray 
With picked men — hiao-hiaol 
Our banners are unfurled 
When we himt in Kao country 

With teams of four horses, 

So huge and so many, 

With red leggmgs, gold slippers 
They come to the Great Meet. 


Thimbles and greaves are slipped on, 
Bows and arrows are made ready; 
Bowmen are,assembled, 

And serve to fire the brushwood.^ 

We drive the four bays, 

The two outriders not swerving. 
Faultlessly they gallop along* 

Arrows fly — ^sphttmg asunder 

Softly the horses neigh, 

Gently the banners wave, 

Quietly go footmen and charioteers 
That our kitchens may not be empty. 

My lord is on his foray ^ 

Quietly acclaims his fame. 

Truly he is a great prmce. 
Stupendous is the bag! 

^ An alternative reading would give 

And serve to pile high the game 




Shin Teh-ts^en^ a scholar of the Ch*ing Djnastj^ was the fast to collect 
together in a single volume called “The Fountain Old Poems^* the 
scattered verses which are to be found in the ancient writings of the 
Chinese The poems come from different sources the Tso Chuan, 
the Shu Ching, the Analects, Huai Nan-tzu and others. Some 
pieces were found on tomb-stones, another was inscribed on a piece <f 
old jade, a third on a bathing vessel. Most of these pieces are later 
than the Book of Songs, but no exact dates for ai^ of them are known 
to modern scholars 


The Emperor Shun announces his determination to resign the throne 
in favour of Yu 

O splendid, glowmg clouds 
Fill the world with colour 
O sun and moon, make bright and fair 
The dawn for ever and ever 

Rejoinder of the Eight Ministers 

Bright, bright is heaven above, 

Splendid are the stars outspread. 

The sim and moon made bright and fair 
Only by the power of One Man ^ 

^ The patriarch Emperor Shim resigned the throne maoioBC at the age of 94. In A D 
1^12, nearly four thousand years after the supposed composition of the song, it became 
the national hymn of the Repubhc of China 

* i e. the Emperor, “the lonely one* 


Rejoinder of the Emperor Shun 

The sun and moon have their paths, 

The stars are held to their courses, 

The four seasons observe the changes, 
The ten thousand creatures are obedient. 
Such music as I speak of 
Corresponds to the spirit of Heaven, 
Leadmg to virtue and excellence. 

Let all men listen to it^ 

Vigorously strike the drums! 

Dance high to it* 

My pure splendour has come to an end. 

I lift up my robes and disappear. 


The Emperor Yao was walking one day in the country when 
he came upon some peasants playmg the game of jang and 
heard them singing. 

We work when the sun rises, 

We rest when the sun' sets 
We dig wells for drink, 

We plough the land for food 
What has the power of the Emperor 
to do with us? 


The fragrance of the south wind 
Can comfort the anger of my people. 

The timely coming of the south wind 
Can increase the gam of my people 


The flowers of the wheat are in spike. 

The rice and millet are gleammg-wet. 

O, the crafty boy, 

Why is he not good to me? 


Gleaming, gleaming are tJie white clouds, 

In the north and south, 

In the east and west, 

When the nine tnpods are cast. 

They will be handed down for the three dynasties. 


There are white clouds in the heaven, 

Great cliffs are lifted upwards, 

Interminable are the roads of earth, 
Moimtains and rivers bar the way: 

I pray you not to die 
Please try to come agam. 


Chu - Yung was lord of this place and produced this flower. 
Bathed in the sun, washed in the moon, among the hundred 
precious things I grew. 


Earth, return to your place, 

Water, flow back into ditches, 

Insects, do not come swarmmg. 

Let grasses and trees grow m die marshlands, 

^ Tlic casting of tnpods for presentation to the ruler was the traditional mark of esteem 
by the people Tb® repetition of words like “splendid” and “gleaming^ in these early 
poems seems to suggest a delight m life and colour which the Chinese shared with the 
Greeks, who worshipped all shining thmgs — germ or sea or cloud 



Tremble, be fearful, 

Night and*day be careful. 

Men do not trip over mountains: 
They fall over earth-mounds 


On the barren south hill 
The white rocks gleam. 

Bom when neither Yao nor Shun resign their thrones, 
Wearing a strip of cloth which reaches hardly to my knees, 
From the sun's awakenmg to the mid of mght I feed cattle. 

Long is the night — ^when comes the dawn? 

In the waters of Ts’ang Lang the white rocks are gleammg. 
There is a carp a foot and a half long 

Wearing some tattered cloth which reaches hardly to my knees, 
From the clear dawnmg to mid of mght I feed the cattle 

0 you yellow calves, go uphill and lie down. 

1 will be minister in the state of Tze, 

Gomg out of the east gate they rub horns on the rocks. 

The splendid pines and the green yews above them. 

My tattered clothes are frayed and ravelled, 

In my time there are no Emperors like Yao and Shun. 

My cattle, grow strong and eat the sweet grass 
There is a great mmister among you. 

I will go with you to the state of Tzu. 

7 ^ 


Of the author of the Tao Teh Ching^ the Classic of the Way of 
Virtue, we know almost nothing. According to the SiiA-cii, he 
was “a native of Chu-jen hamlet, in Li-hsiang, m the district of 
K^u, m the state of Ch"u, His proper name was Erh, his courtesy 
name Pai-yang, his pseudonym Tan, and his family name Li 
He was keeper of the state archives of Chou. After residing in 
Chou for a long time he perceived that tdie state was enfeebled 
and on her way to declme ; thereupon he gave up his position and 
went away No one knows where he died It appears that he lived 
to be more than one hundred years old, and some say more than 
two hundred years old . . 

Almost certainly the book was not composed by one man: 
equally certainly someone who was called Lao T2ai took some 
part in It We can recognise here and there in the accepted canon 
of the work the accents of a single individual, who was at once 
scholar, poet and statesman — z man who liked quietness, and 
who saw in quietness the root of all things, the place where all 
things return. The idea of the “return”, which is continually 
repeated through the book, is more important than the idea of 
the “way”: for without the return of things to their roots, there 
would hardly have been any poetry in the book. The first poem 
included here mtroduces a theme which is absent from the Book 
of Songsy though henceforward we shall come across it continually 
in Chinese poetry. Here is the theme of Tao Tuan-mmg^s prose 
fragment called The Peach-blossom Fountaiiiy and here is the 
theme of innumerable poems of Li Po. “There is no going without 
returning’', says the mscription under the Tai Hexagram m the 
Book of Changes. It is out of such simple things that poetry is made. 

But though the idea of the return is cardinal in the poems of 
the Tao Teh Chmg — ^for it is perhaps necessary to insist that the 
book is almost wholly written in rhymed irregular verse — other 
and vaster themes are mcluded, and it is through the interplay 
of a few dominant themes mercilessly repeated and exammed 
that the book acquires its curious beauty. The Foimtain, the Vast 


Simplicity, the Entrance of the Female, the nature of Quietness, 
the silent working of nature, the powers of the Sage — ^all these 
are examined critically and passed in review by a mmd which is 
curiously transparent and curiously Chinese, hating war, 
delighting in simple things, attemptmg with all the powers at 
Its command to reinforce rather than dominate nature Man 
must not fight agamst nature. He must follow the Way — and the 
Way is not necessarily the path of least resistance, for the stars 
do not follow the path of least resistance But the Way cannot be 
described in words, and the poet can only ceaselessly hint at it, 
inventing new images and discovering in a combination of many 
images the nature of the mysterious movements of all thmgs 
The book was written at a time of war and shows signs at 
times of the stram of war. Always there is the implied lament 
for things past and things lost. In a passage almost certainly 
written in prose, Lao Tzu describes a vision of contentment: 

The countrj is small, but has few inhabitants^ onij tens and 
hundreds* Even though they have all the trappings of the age, they 
do not require them. The people venerate death, they are not driven 
to welcome it or to migiate to distant places to avoid famine and 
misery. Even though there are boats and carriages, they do not need 
to travel. Even though they have coats of mail and weapons, they do 
not fight Savoury is their food, beautiful their clothing, simple 
their living and happy their customs. They may see in the distance 
neighbouring villages, and even hear the cocks crowing and dogs 
barking, and yet these people attain great age and live until death 
in such contentment that they do not go to see others. 

So might a man have vsritten in the trenches, seemg the whole 
world fallmg about his ears; and few things are more certain 
than the book was vsritten in the time of co^sion known as the 
Warrmg States, But of everything else concerning the genesis 
of the book we remain ignorant. 



Go to the end of tibe Void, 

Hold fast to Quietness^ 

All things are stirring. 

I have beheld them in the place where they return. 
See, all things are flowering, 

But all return to the root 

The return to the root is called Quietness 

The return is destmy. 

Constant is the destmed return. 

To know this constancy is to be illumined. 

Not to know constancy 
Is to run blindly into isaster. 

He who knows constancy 
Knows all things. 

Justice IS kingly, 

Kmgship IS heavenly. 

Heavenly is the Way, 

The Way is eternal. 

Though the body decays, such a man never dies I 


The Way can only return. 

All you can do is to become weak.^ 

Though everything imder heaven is bom from being. 
Being is bom from nothingness. 


The spirit of the Fountain never dies; 

It is called the Mysterious Female 
The entrance to the Mysterious Female 
Is the root of all Heaven and Earth. 
Frail, frail it is, hardly existing. 

But touch it; It will never run dry. 

* In the sense of passively following the movement of return. 



Before Heaven and Earth were bom 
There was something formless yet complete. 

Silent^ Empty! 

Changeless^ Hangmg on nothmgness^ 

Pervadmg all things! Unending! 

We say it is the Mother of all thmgs under heaven, 
But we do not know its real name. 

We call It the Way. 

We say it is Great 

To be Great is to go forward, 

To go forward is to travel far^ 

To travel far is to return. 

Great is the Way, 

Great are Heaven and Earth, 

Great is Man.^ 

Among the four great thmgs 
Man has his place. 

Man follows Earth, 

Earth follows Heaven, 

Heaven follows the Way, 

The Way follows itself. 


Away with learning ^ Away with gneving! 
Between wei and 
Where is the difference? 

Between good and evil, 

Where is the difference? 

Must a man fear 
What IS feared by others? 

O pure idiocy! 

All men are beaming with pleasure 
As though feastmg at the Great Sacrifice, 

1 Some editions read “emperor^ for “man*. 

* Different forms of “yes” 


As though climbing the Spring Terrace; 

I alone am silent, I have given no sign, 

Like an infant who has not yet spuled, 

Abandoned, like someone homeless. 

All men have enough and to spare, 

I alone seem to have nothing. 

I am a man with the mind of an idiot, 

A pure fool 

Everywhere men shine* 

I alone am dark. 

Everywhere men are gay: 

I alone am disquieted, 

Nervous as the sea. 

Drifting, never ceasmg 
Everywhere men have work* 

Everywhere men have work: 

I alone am stubborn, taking no part. 

The chief difference lies in this 
I prize the breasts of the Mother. 


What the eye gazes at and cannot see is called “beyond vision*', 
What the ear listens for and cannot hear is called “beyond sound**, 
What the hands feels for and cannot touch is called “without 

These three can never be fathomed. 

They become one thing 
Revealed, it is not dazzling. 

Hidden, it is not dark. 

Endless the things without name 
Which return to where there is nothmg. 

They are called shapes without shape, 

Forms without form. 

Shadows, emblems. 

Face them, you will see no front. 

Follow them, you will see no back. 

Lay hold of the ancient way: 

Then you will possess the present. 

To know the beginning of antiquity 
Is to follow the thread of the Way. 



humble, you will be whole 
Bend, you will be s*traight. 

Be hollow, you will be filled. 

Be broken, you will be repaired. 

Possess little, you will have much. 

Have much, you will be cast down. 

Therefore the Sage holds to the One, 

And measures all thmgs under heaven. 

He does not show himself 

Therefore he shines 

He does not proclaim himself, 

Therefore he is clearly seen 
He does not praise himself. 

Therefore he wins victories 
He IS not proud of his handiwork, 

Therefore it lasts forever 
He alone does not contend ; 

Therefore none under heaven can contend with him. 

The ancient saying, “Be humble ; you will be made whole — ” 
Wise words ^ 

To reach wholeness one must return! 


Would a man lay siege to the whole world and make it his own? 

I have seen that he will not succeed. 

All beneath heaven is a sacred vessel. 

Do not tamper with it, 

Do not make it your own 
Tampering with it you will spoil it. 

Making it your own you will lose it. 

For all creatures there is a time for advancing, a time for 

A time for inhalmg, a time for exhaling, 

A time for growmg strong, a time for decay, 

A time for creation, a time for destruction. 

Therefore the Sage avoids the extremes, the extravagant, the 



Where there is the Way under heaven, 

Galloping horses fertilise the field's with their droppings. 
When there is the Way under heaven, 

War horses breed on die sacred mounds 
There is no enticement greater than envy, 

No disaster greater than discontent, 

No evil greater than covetousness, 

He who knows the contentment that comes from content 
Is ever content. 


The Way is eternal and has no name. 

An imcarved block, seeimngly of little moment, ^ 

Yet greater than anything under heaven. 

Should a duke or a prmce chng to it. 

Then the ten thousand people would render him homage. 
Heaven and Earth would be in harmony, 

Sending down a rain of sweet dew. 

Peace and order would reign among the people 
Once the block is carved there are names. 

But when there are names 
Already it is time to stop. 

Knowing when to stop prevents you from entermg danger. 
Into the Way come all things under heaven 
As streams and torrents into nvers and the sea. 


Whatever is shrunk 

Must first have been stretched. 

Whatever is weak 

Must first have been strong. 

Whatever is thrown down 

Must first have been set up 

Whatever is given 

Must first have been taken. 

This is called the dark illumination: 
S^t weainess avercomes hard strength. 


As a fish should not leap from the deep, 

So should the sharp weapons of the nations 
Never be shown.i 


If you hold the Great Form® 

And go all over the empire. 

There is no harm in your going, 

There is peace and very quietness. 

Music and good dishes 
May make the stranger pause, 

Bpt the mouth of Tao, 

So mild and flavourless — 

Look in It, there is nothing to see. 

Listen to it, there is nothmg to hear, 

Use it, it is never-endmg. 


Silent words ripen of themselves 
A whirlwmd does not last a whole morning, 
Pelting rain does not last a whole day. 

Who made them? 

Heaven and Earth ^ 

Heaven and Earth caimot make them last long. 
How much less can man? 

He who follows the Way 
Becomes like the Way. 

He who follows power 
Becomes like power. 

He who suffers loss 
Becomes like loss 
He who conforms to the Way 
The Way joyfully welcomes. 

He who conforms to power 
Power joyfully welcomes. 

He who conforms to loss 
Loss joyfully welcomes. 

If you are lacking in faith 
Others will fail you. 

1 The last three lines would appear to be later interpolations. 

* 1 e, the Way. 



The highest form of goodness is Jike water; 

The goodness of water benefits all peoples, and does not 

Water is content with places detested by men 
So is the Way. 

Earth makes good houses, 

Depth makes good hearts, 

Gentleness makes good friends, 

Truth makes good speech, 

Order makes good government. 

Goodness makes good deeds. 

Timeliness makes good actions. 

Let there be no striving 
Lest mistakes are made. 


Heaven is eternal, Earth endurmg. 

Why are Heaven and Earth eternal and enduring? 
Because they do not live for themselves. 

They live forever. 


The Sage who desires to be last puts himself first, 

If he desires to be outside, he finds himself surviving. 
Stnvmg with no personal aims. 

Everything he desires is given to him. 


Those who in ancient days were the best commanders 
Were those who were delicate, subtle, mysterious, 

Their minds too deep to be fathomed, 

We can only speak of them as they appeared to the world* 


Hesitant like one wading a winter stream, 

Fearful like one seeing danger all round him, 

Courteous like someone accepting an mvitation, 

Yielding like ice about to melt, 

Vacant as an imcarved block, 

Empty as a cave, 

Dark as a muddy pool 

Who can become the dark pool, and in the end be so clear ^ 
Who can become so dead, and m the end be so alive? 
Those who follow Tao do not try to bnm over. 

Because they do not bnm over, 

They are like seeds and are eternally renewed 


The five colours lead to blmdness. 

The five tones deafen the ear, 

The five flavours dull the palate 
Hunting and the chase have power to drive men mad , 
Rare possessions tempt men to wrong deeds. 
Therefore the Sage follows the belly, ^ not the eye: 

He abandons ‘that^ and takes ‘this/ 


To know people is to be wise. 

To know oneself is to be illummed, 

To conquer others is to have strength. 

To conquer oneself is to have power, 

To be content is to have great wealth. 

Devotedly to follow the Way is to fulfil all aims: 

He who stays where he is is enduring 

To die and not to be lost — this is called *long life/ 

e what IS within 



Can the moving soni be One, 

Never losing hold’^^ 

Can you breathe light as a child? 

Can your breath be controlled? 

Can you cleanse the mysterious mirror, 

Leaving no trace whatever? 

Can you love people, rule nature, 

Yet remaining unknown? 

At the openmg and closmg of the gates of Heaven, ^ 
Can you take the part of the woman? 

All seeing, all knowing? 

Can you do nothing? 

Rear them, then feed them 

Rear them, do not lay hold on them. 

Subdue them, do not touch them 

Be their commander, but do not command them 

Here lies mystenous power. 


Away with Sages! Away with wise men! 

The people will gain a hundredfold. 

Away with kindness! Away with morality! 

The people will return to piety and goo^ess. 
Away with skill! Away witih profit! 

Then there will be no more robbers and diieves. 
If these three revolutions are insufficient. 

Then let men 

Gaze on simplicity, hold the uncarved block, 

Be selfless, have few desires. 

Perbaps tlae &<^stnb, but there may be deliberate imagery based on the “Mysterious 
Fenude“. See HI, V. 



Heaven and Earth are without benevolence. 

To them all the creafeires are but as straw dogs. 

The Sage has no benevolence* 

To him the hundred families are but as straw dogs.^ 
The space between Heaven and Earth 
Is a blacksmith's bellows, 

Vacant, inexhaustible. 

Move it: plenty comes forth 
Many words cannot fathom it. 

Look — ^it is in your heart! 


That which no one knows is the Highest, 

Next comes that which we love and praise. 

Next comes that which we fear. 

Next comes that which we despise. 

When you are lackmg in faith. 

Others will be faithless to you. 

How far-away is the Sage, how few his words, 

His task over, his work done, 

The hundred families cry: Look, we did it ourselves! 


Jom together thirty spokes — ^you have a wheel; 
Where there is nothing. 

The wheel is useful. 

Mould clay together — ^make a vessel: 

There where there is nothing, 

The vessel is useful. 

Cut out doors and windows to make a house; 
There where there is nothmg. 

The house is useful. 

Though there are advantages in bemg, 
Nothhigness is useful. 

^ Straw ammals used for sacrifices 


Therefore the good general only protects • 

He does not exploit his power. 

Success does not make him boatful, 

Success does not make him elated, 

Success does not make him proud, 

Success does not make him go further. 
Success does not make him resort to power. 
There is a time of youth and a time of decay 
This IS not Tao, 

What IS not Tao soon perishes. 


Know the male, 

Cleave to the female, 

Be the abyss of all thmgs under heaven: 

He who is the abyss of all thmgs under heaven, 

Knows a power which is never exhausted. 

Returns again to a state of infancy. 

Know the white. 

Cleave to the black, ^ 

Follow the design of all thmgs under heaven: 

He who follows the design of all things under heaven 
Knows a power which is effortless. 

Returns again to the unbounded 
Know glory. 

Cleave to ignominy. 

Become the foimtain of all things under heaven. 

He who becomes the fountam of all things under heaven 
Knows a power which is limitless, 

Returns again to the uncarved block. 

A block may be shaped into vessels, 

But when the Sage uses it 
He makes leaders of men: 

“The great carver does not cut”. 

* i.e. tbe darkj^in^ or passive element of nature. 



332-296 B.C. 

Like Confucius, Li To and Li Ho, Chu Yuan claimed descent from 
the impenalfamilj and there is a curious air of suffering nobili^ and fan- 
ta^ in his works. He is among the greatest (f Chinese poets, but his 
death is remembered more than his life, and his sufferings are remembered 
more than bis rare moments of happiness On the Jfth day of theffth 
moon his death bj suicide in the Milo river is celebrated all over China 
bj dragonfestivals and bj offerings of rice thrown on the water he 
would hardljr approve of hs popularity thousands of years after his 
death, for he seems to have possessed the soul of a recluse haunting the 
wild river banks, continually thinking of his own death and of a strange 
fairyland inhabited by the ancient gods and by river-nymphs of his 

He lived at a time of remorseless wars, when King Huai (329-299) 
was busily attempting to extend the frontiers of his kingdom. Holding 
a high appointment at the court, Chu Yuan objected against the use of 
force, but without effect, in 303 he was banished, and never returned 
to power Therecfter he wandered over the countiyside, principally in 
the region of the vast inland T^ung-ting Lake in northern Hunan, 
collecting legends, rearranging the odes of the people, and writing the 
tragic complaint against the Emperor which is known as the Li Sao, 
until he could bear his fate no longer and drowned himsef He was not 
made for this world. He demanded of the imperial counsellors more 
puny than thy can have been expected to possess, but his haunting 
grif, his strange^ brilliant imagination and the grace of his poetry 
remain as a perpetual reminder that puny is essential 

He did not always follow the legends Liu Hsieh, writing in the 
sixth century A D. objected that his falcon acting as a go-between was 
unscnptural, and bis liter ay treatment <f the two ladies of the Hsiang 
river was not in accordance with the Tso Chuan, the great historical 
work compiled by Cojfucius. Chu Yuan would hardly have cared : he 
found his legends among the people, and changed them to suit his con- 
venience, and there is good reason for believing that he deliberate^ 


merged together a number of songs to produce his great birmns^ which 
are included here. He would prferred to have known that a Han 
Emperor would have fallen in love with Xi Sao and that prince Huai 
Nan would have written his biograpl^^ now lost. Of his poetry ^ Liu 
Hsieh said in a famous rl^hmical essaj ^When he speaks <f his suffer- 
ings^ we are pierced to the hearty and when he describes mountains and 
streams^ we hear their sounds and see them before us, and when he 
talks of times and seasons, as we unroll the poem, we see the times and 
seasons bfore us’\ And he concludes an astonishing^ vivid essay bj 
describing the poet's habit of freedom: ^his genius was so great, and 
the smoke if it curled so high, and there were such visions of illimitable 
mountains and streams, and such logic and feeling in his work, that I 
might say his face was f gold and his appearance of jade, his beau^ 
outshining all things and as light as a hair^\ 

His influence was immense Not onlj the Han Djnas^ poets, but 
poets f much later ages worshipped him until he was regarded as a kind 
of god of poetrj Like Virgil, he acquired magical legends fter his 
death. He was always spoken f in hyperboles. Even the historian 
Ssu-ma Ch'ien, usually so critical, described him as “a man who, cast 
in the mud and f 1th, was touched with no impuny; and with such a 
heart he may be said to rival the sun and moon in giving brightness”. 
The reader of an English translation f his work may not be expected to 
agree, but it is hoped that he will at least agree on the dazzling quaky 
of the poet's imagination. 



On this aiispicious day, at the felicitous hour, 

Joyously we entertain the Sovereign Lord 
With long swords and jade guards in our hands, 

With girdles of kpis-lazuli tinkling ling-lang. 

We offer jade gifts on mats of fairy grass. 

Holding up fragrant grasses and jades. 

We pour libations of pepper juice and cinnamon wine. 
The drum-sticks are raised: we beat the drums. 

Psalters and zithers unfold in a great harmony. 

^ The Lord af the East, Tung Huang Vm /, is supposed to have been die autochthonous god 
of the eastem part of the state of Qiu, of which Chu Yuan was at one tune Prime 


The mmistrants dance in flowing silks and resplendent 

A wafting fragrance fills the spaces of the hall, 

And the five tones in’ crowded chorus sing’ 

Glory and gladness to the happy lord! 


He bathes among orchids, washes his hair m the 
scented streams, 

Adorns his embroidered coat with flowers from the 
sunset tree, 

This Spirit comes with leisurely steps, and stays* 

The splendour of his glory is never-ending 

He rests and remains m his eternal palace 

Equal in brilliance to the Sim and the Moon 

In a chariot drawn by dragons, wearing regal garments, 

He wanders over his boundless plains of Heaven. 

In a shining glory this spirit has descended. 

Suddenly he soars high among the clouds, 

Seemg the whole province of Ch'i and even beyond,^ 
Spreadmg over the Four Seas m the mterminable distance. 
Thinking of this Lord I sigh deeply; 

Sorrow weighs heavily upon my heart. 


Lady: The Lord comes not, and stays his steps. 

I am waiting for him on the island 

With sidelong glances and with gleaming smiles. 

Come swiftly on a boat of sandalwood, 

O make the Yuan and Hsiang to have no wave! 

May the waters of the river flow gently 
So I gaze for the Lord who has not yet come, 
Plajmg on my flute and dreammg of his presence, 

* One of the seven states then contending for power The others were Ch’in» Ch*u, Yen, 
Han, Chao and Wei 

* The division of the speeches is conjectural It is clear that the Lady of Hsiang is waiting 
for her Lord, but the Chinese is so close-packed that it is not alvrays possible to know 
the exact moment when the Lady ceases sp4kii^ and the Lord begins 


Lord. In a chariot drawn by feathered dragons and hornless 

I wander the winding paths of the Tung-t^ing Lake, 
A pennant of creeping fig leaves bound with aloes, 
My standard of inses garlanded with orchids. 
Gazing northward upon the distant shores of Ts^en, 
I give forth light which spreads over the great river. 
The beams of my light are never-ending 
The Lady moans and deeply sighs 

Lady* My tears flow m endless streams: 

In sorrow and sadness I dream of my Lord, 

Who IS sailmg with oars of cmnamon and sweeps 
of cassia, 

Breakmg through ice and heaped-up snow. 

Like someone gathermg irises in a lake 
Or plucking hybiscus from the top of a tree, 

So does the marriage-broker ^ labour among alien 

Your love for me is not deep, but easily broken. 
The river drools over the stone shallows, 

Flying dragons flap feathery wings. 

Unfaithful love brmgs continual murmurings. 

You broke your promise when you said there was 
no more time. 

Lord: By morning I wander along the nver. 

During the evening I approach the northern 

Birds build their nests m the house-tops. 

Water purls beneath my temple-walls. 

I cast my jade ring in the tide ; 

I drop my girdle pendant on the shores of Li 
I gather azaleas on the fragrant island. 

These flowers I shall bestow upon the Lady. 

The tune may never come agam. 

Meanwhile I wander, composmg myself at my 

^ The suggestion is that the labours of the marriage-broker are as difficult as plucking the 
hybiscus from the topmost branches. 



Lady* The son of the Supreme Lord descends the 
northern stairway 

My eyes are alight with melancholy gazing 
Soft fall the autumn winds, 

The leaves are falling in the ripples of the 
Tung-thng Lake 

Lord* Treading amid white duckweed, I gaze m the far 

Awaiting the beautiful one under the curtains of 

Why should the birds gather among duckweed^ 
What use is a fish-net upon a tree? 

Lady, In the Yuan River there are angelicas, in the Li 
there are orchids* 

Thmking of the prmce, I dare not speak aloud. 
With wildly beating heart I gaze afar 
I gaze at the river flowing peacefully away 
Why should the deer search for food in a garden? 
Why should the scaly dragon live in a small pool? 

Lord: In the mommg I ride my horse along the banks; 

In the evenmg I arrive at the western shore. 

I hear the beautiful one summoning me. 

I hasten to her on my galloping courser. 

Lady: I will build my house in the water, 

There will be a roof of lotos leaves, 

A trellis of iris, carpets of purple shells, 

Juice of scented pepper seeds strewn on the walls. 
Rafters of cinnamon, beams of orchids, 

Pillars of magnolia, joists of white angelica, 

With woven fig-leaves I will make a tapestry of 

^ Hsiang Fu-jen, the coUectiYe name for the two daughters of the Emperor Yao Hie 
elder was called Wu Huang, the younger Nu Ymg They became simtiltaneously Empress 
and Consort of the Emperor Shun 


With bundles of split orchids I will make lattices 
The weights shall be of white jade,^ 

Wild orchids will exhale their perfumes. 

Irises will be woven in the lotos roof, 

Asarums will compose the binding-straw. 
Thousands upon thousands of herbs shall fill the 

Sweet herbs will hang over the fragrant door. 


Lord: May the gates of Heaven be opened wide! 

In ecstasy I ride the black cloud. 

I command the whirlwind to be my herald, 

I summon the rainstorm to lay the dust! 

Ministrant: You who swoop down to the earth continually 

Grant that I may follow in your tram to the Hollow 

Lord: How manifold are the people of the Nine 

Whose lives and deaths depends upon my power. 

I ride the pure air, I commaiid the dark and the 

Soaring high, I float in the serene heavens. 

Ministrant* I hasten towards the Lord, preparing for the 

To accompany the Great Sovereign to the Chiu 

^ 1 c. to hold down the carpets 

* As before the division between the characters is conjectural The ministrant would 
appear to be Chu Yuan himself. 

*The K’^un-lun Mountains, which was regarded as the place where the sun sets, the 
abode dF the gods and the centre of the earth From the white waters which flow from it, 
It was also Isnown as the place of the dead 


Lord My clouds of scarves are waving and billowing. 

My jade girdle-pendant sparkles in bewildering 

Amid the alternations of dark and brightness, 

There are none who have known the extent of 
my power 

Ministrant: I pluck the white flowers of the life-giving poppy 
I shall bestow them upon one who is far away. 

Old age, white beard draws imperceptibly nearer, 
Yet we are drawing further and further apart 

Lord* I ride the roaring chariots of dragons, 

Soarmg high into the serene heavens 

Ministrant: My desire increases, my heart is achmg 
For those thmgs which can no longer be 

Twining laurel-twigs, I gaze for a long time. 

Grant Aat I might remain without dimmishing 

Lord. Man's destiny is ordained. What shall be, will be. 
Ministrant: Who can arrange his own meetings and partings? 


Ladt: . The autumn orchids and the silver pennies 
Grow in rows beneath the temple door. 

Green leaves and white flowers 
With melting fragrance overpower me. 

Always men have possessed beautiful women: 

Then why are you so grief-stricken? 

Lord: O riotously grow the autumn orchids * 

Green leaves and purple stems — 

The temple hall is filled with beautiful women- 
Suddenly our eyes met in betrothal. 

* The presence of two arbiters would suggest that the legends of two dijRTcrent states 
were later fused together Here, too, the divisions are conjectural 


On entering you are silent, on leaving you bid no 

I ride the whirlvrind, bearing pennons of cloud. 
Nothing IS sadder than parting from the living, 
Nothing more joyful than makmg a new friend. 

Lady: With a cloak of lotos and a girdle of aloes, 

Suddenly you came and suddenly you went away 
When you rest at night near the heavenly palace, 
Whom are you waiting for among the clouds? 

Lord. With you I would wander the Nine Rivers, 

The whirlwmd and the waves nse. 

With you I would bathe my hair in the Hsien Pool,^ 
I would dry your hair on the slopes of Yang ^ 
Waiting for the beautiful one who has not yet come, 
Facing the wind I sing my mad strams aloud. 

Lady: With a roof of peacocks, pennons from kingfishers, 
Ascendmg the Nine Heavens, waving comet-tails, 
Grasping a long sword and protectmg the heavenly 

O you alone are fitted to be the leader of the people 


I arise in the East in all my immensity, 

Shining among the palisades of coloured cloud. 
Quietly I ride, stroking my charger. 

Night shmes: daylight comes breakmg through. 
My chariot has dragon-shafts, wheels of thunder. 
Cloudy pennons windmg and frolicking. 

Long do I sigh before I mount the chariot, 

Deep in thought, pawing the ground. 

My colours and music throw people in ecstasy; 
Beholders are bemused, they forget their homes. 

* Wliere the bathes 

* Where the sun sets. 


The tight strings of harps play m unison, 

Jade bells hanging from the bar are made to sound, 

To the tune of pipes and the playing of the flageolet. 
Thmking of myself, beautiful and beneficent servant of 

I soar and sweep through the air like a kingfisher 
The hymnals are open, the people ^ther for the dance, 
Following the tune and the beat of the drum. 

So many ministrants that the sun can hardly be seen. 
With my mantle of blue cloud, in my white-dappled 

With my long arrow I shoot at the wolf-star 
Then, takmg my bow, I step back and descend, 
Grasping the North Ladle, I scoop up the laurel-scented 

Joining my reins, I ride and soar into the heavens. 
Hidden in darkness, I make my way to the East. 


With you I wander the Nine Rivers. 

The whirlwind and the waves arise 
Riding the water chariot with the roof of lotos leaves, 
I am drawn by two dragons and a hornless serpent. 
Climbing on K^un-lun Mountains I look in the four 

My spirit wanders over the face of the deep 
The day is waning. Bemused, I forget my home 
I am dreaming of a distant shore. 

In a fish-scale house, in a hall of diagons, 

Under a purple-sheU gateway, in a palace of pearl, 

0 spirit, why do you dwell in the waters? 

Riding the white tortoise, chasing the spotted fishes, 

1 wander with you among the small islets. 

The swift-flowmg freshet comes swirhng down-river. 
With a gentle bow you turn towards the East. 

So I escort the beautiful one to the south anchorage. 
Wave after wave comes to welcome me ; 

Multitudes of fishes bid me farewell, 

* The Ladle is the Dipper imagmed as a wme-scoop; tiie wolf-star probably Sinus. 



Lobx) There seems to be a spirit on the mountain 
Clad m creeping fig, girdled with ivy, 

Smiling with droopmg lids and shining teeth ; 

She longs for me, makes elaborate gestures. 

Lady. Riding a red leopard and led by a striped fox, 

In a chariot of magnolias bound with cassia banners, 
Clad in orchids, girdled in azaleas, 

I cull sweet flowers for my beloved 

Lord I dwell in a dark grove, the sky unseen 

The road is steep , I have come too late in the year. 

I stand like a pillar alone on the mountain-top 
Clouds hover and float beneath my feet. 

Lady: Darkness and gloom spread around; the day lies dim. 
The east wind rages, the spirits send the ram, 

I am waiting for my beloved. Bemused, I forget my 

The year is drawmg to a close. Who will now honour 

Lord* I pluck the three kinds of larkspur on the hillside; 

Amid the craggy rocks and luxuriant vmes 
Complaining of the princess, I am sad and loth to return. 
She is thmking of me and yet has no time to comfort me 

Lady I am the spirit of the mountain, crovmed with alpinias, 
Drinking from the rocky fountam, in the shade of firs 
and pines. 

I half wonder whether you still think of me. 

Thunder rumbles. Sheets of rain darken the earth. 

Lord: The gibbons howl and monkeys mourn all night. 

The whistling wmd whispers among falling leaves 
Thinking of the prmcess in vain can I lay my sorrow. 

all translated bj Shen Yu-twg 



This IS the beautiful dress 
I liked best in my youth , 

Now that I am old 
I like It no less 

My head-dress touching the cloud, 

Shining long sword in my hand, 

Bright pearls decorating my back, 

Precious jade hanging from my belt. 

In this covetous chaotic world 
No one understands me — 

I gallop at full speed 

Though they pay no attention to me, 

Havmg harnessed my chariot, 

A blue dragon and a white one 
I go with the Emperor Shun 
Travelling through the Jade Garden. 

I mount the K'un-lun Mountains, 

I eat pure flowers, 

I am as old as Heaven and Earth, 

I compete with the sun and moon in brilliance. 

Ah, none of the south barbarians 
Understand me 
I will cross the Hsiang river 
Early tomorrow mommg 

When I have landed at the island of Ngo 
I will look back and sigh 
At the lingering winter wind. 

My horse will have paced the hillside bank 
Before my chariot arrives at the Square Wood, 

Then I shall take a barge up the Yan River, 

All the oars striking the river together. 

But the barge will go its own way, not pushing forward, 
Hesitating, remaining in the whirlpools. 



I shall start from the Crooked Beach in the mommg, 

I shall lodge at Bright Time late at night. 

What IS the harm of hvmg m a waste space, 

If my heart is sincere and upright? 

Slowly I wander the bank of the river, 

Not laiowing where I should go . 

The dark forest so endless. 

The habitation of apes and monkeys. 

The mountains so high that the sun is hidden, 

Wet with rain-mists, the valleys so dark and dim, 

The heavy sleet and snow falling at random. 

The flossy clouds embracmg roofs and caves. 

I regret I have no happmess all my days 
And am compelled to lead a separate life 
Among these mountains, m utter desolation ; 

But never shall I change my mind 
To fit into the vulgarity of the world. 

Therefore I am destined to die 
A poor, pained and grief-stricken man, 

Tsieh-yu had his whole head shaved, ^ 

Sang-hu went out of his house naked; 

A loyal minister is often dismissed, 

The virtuous are not often appomted. 

So calamity fell before Master Wu 
And Pi-kan was made into mincemeat. 

So it has been smce ancient times 

Why do I complam that men are blind to-day? 

I shall follow the straight path without hesitation, 

Bearing up agamst Chaos till my last breath* 


The Phoenix flies farther and farther 
As the hours fly. 

Crows and sparrows build their nests 
Above the ancestral altar in the hall 

^ Tsieh-yu was a contemporary of Confucius who pretended to be mad, so that he might not 
be appomted officer by the Duke of Ch*u Sang-hu was a hermit, of whom little is fiiown 
Master Wu (Wu Tzu-ssu) was a loyal general of the Chou Dynasty He served the Duke 
of Wu, and begged the Duke to invade the kingdom of Yueh , but refusing to listen to 
this advice, the Duke of Wu ordered him to commit suicide 

Pi-kan was the uncle of the profligate Chou, the last kmg of the Shang-Yin Dynasty He 
offended the kmg by advismg him to forgo his immoral life, and m consequence was 
executed and his body cut open 


The magnolias stretch out of the jungle 
And die in entanglement. 

When rancid smells are liked, 

Fragrance caiuiot come near. 

The Negative in place of the Positive — 

This is die time of great evil. 

Embracing loyalty, but forlorn, 

I commence my journeys. 

translated bj Yu Mm-cbuan 


I am a distant descendant of Kao Yang Ti,^ 

My late and noble father was named Pai Yung, 

Arcturus had j'ust come into the sky 

On the day of Ken Ymg,^ when I descended to earth 

My father reviewed the horoscope of my early life, 

And conferred on me an auspicious name: 

The name he gave me was Perfect Legality. 

I also acquired the name of Ministrant of Harmony 

Already I possessed innumerable excellencies ; 

Great powers of imderstanding were given to me 
I was clad m angelica and nightshade, 

From my girdle hung autumn orchids 

I cannot keep pace with the years, 

I fear the years will escape me 

In the mommg I gather cedar branches from the hills, 

At night I pluck the evergreens on the islands. 

The sim and moon will not suddenly delay: 

Spring and autumn move m their accustomed order. 

Now the parched grass and leafless trees decay, 

I fear my beloved Imgers on the road 

^ The dynastic title of Chiian Hsu, grandson of the Yellow Emperor He reigned from 
B C. to 25:14 B C. 

* The cyclic year. 


Even 'when she was of age, she could not refuse evil gifts. 
Why does she not mend her erring ways'^ 

By riding pure thoroughbreds,^ she might course ahead, 
And show the way that lies before us 

The three good longs were unendingly virtuous 
The scented herbs lay in their proper order. 

The pepper of Shen was mingled with oleander, 

But how shall angelica blend with wood-orchids'? 

The Emperors Yao and Shun were stem and shining, 

They obeyed the Tao and renewed the Way 
The 'Wild encounters of Chieh and Chou — 

How soon the easy pathways lead to pitfalls ^ 

Yet there are places where men assume these pleasures. 
Shady is the way, dark and dangerous the passages. 

Why should I fear danger for myself? 

I only fear the imperial chariots will be ruined 

Swiftly I wander in all directions 

In search of the footprints left by ancient kings 

The scented flowers are mdifferent to my motives • 

They utter scandal they are consumed with rage. 

I know my words have power to anger you: 

My fortitude is such, I cannot cease 
I call the Nine Heavens to witness my honour 
I only seek the good of my adored 

At yellow dusk we were to meet. 

Alas, you came half-way, then turned aside. 

Time was when we shared our lovers" oaths, 

But now you hide from me, have commerce with other 

For me there is no terror in leave-taking 
I am woimded by my lady"s change of heart. 

Already I have planted nine acres of orchids 
And a hundred acres of valerian, 

Ten acres each of moss-flowers and white rumex, 

And many sun-apples and sweet spirit-grass. 


I want the branches and leaves to be luxuriant and tall, 

I shall wait for the proper time of reaping. 

If they are nipped ar;d withered, why should I grieve^ 

I weep for sweet herbs among foul weeds 

They go stampeding in search of money and grain. 
Surfeited, they are not afraid to come for more. 

Alas, they forgive themselves and blame only others 
Their hearts swell with life, swayed by envy and greed. 

They ride* roughshod in pursuit.of their ends. 

My heart does not hunger after such thmgs. 

Gradually old age will fall about me , 

Perhaps I shall never establish my good fame. 

At davm I drink the droppmg dews of magnolias, 

At dusk I eat fallen chrysanthemum petals 
If I respect only the good and the virtuous. 

Why should I grieve over their mterminably hungry jaws? 

I bmd the valerian petals with tendrils, 

I thread the fallen buds of lily-flowers, 

I wreathe the hybiscus with mallows 
And rope the ivy into threaded sheaves. 

Therefore I shall behave like the men of old. 

Though the world may never adnut my claims. 

They say such thoughts^ are out of fashion, 

But I shall follow the path of P"eng Hsien. 

I sigh deeply and wipe my tears away, 

Grievmg for the many sufferings of the people. 

Loving virtue I curb myself with bit and bridle; 

Day and night they curse and vilify me 

Now in my disgrace I wear the yellow orchid. 

And wear also the flowenng angelica. 

And all these thmgs seem good to me. 

Though I die nine deaths I shall never repent. 

^ 1 € smcide P’eng Hsien was a former sage who committed suicide under the same 
conditions as Ch'u Yuan 


I hate the wantoimess of my adored/ 

Who never searched the hearts of the people. 

Because all women envy my moth eyebrows, 

Slanderous tongues accuse me of being dissolute. 

Truly m these days the art of the craftsman 
Is to prepare everythmg without compass or squares 
The crooked is made straight without Ime or ink. 
Toleration of all thmgs has become the law. 

Oppressed and saddened, I remam irresolute: 

This time I am alone m my deep sufferings 
Far better to drown and pensh utterly — 

I can no longer allow myself to endure these thmgs 

The hawks do not fly in flocks 

This has been so smce the beginning of the world. 

How can the circle ever be squared? 

Gomg such different ways, how can we ever reach 

I will cleanse my heart and cool my fever, 

I will ensure the forfeit and accept abuse 
To yield with a pure heart and die righteously, 

This is what the men of old always commended 

I regret only, I never knew a peaceful life. 

For a while I temporised, then I returned. 

Now I wheel roimd my chariot and discover a new road: 
I have not gone too far down the wrong line. 

I pace my horse amid the orchid marshes, 

I climb die pepper hill and rest betimes. 

I went straight forward, but not to encounter sorrows. 
Withdrawing from the world, I mend my old clothes 

ITl wear a cloak of lotoses and water chestnuts, 

My vest will be woven of hybiscus flowers. 

If men know me not, I shall have no care: 

My thoughts are pure and scented like flowers. 

^ King Huai of Ch’u, uoader whom Chu Yuan waa at one tune nimister. 


My cap will be lifted even higher. 

My girdle-pendant longer, studded with jewels 
They will be scented^and many-coloured — 

Ah, my brightness shall not grow less. 

Swiftly I look back and gaze in the distance, 

My glance scours the four wildernesses. 

My girdle pendants shimng with glittering colours, 
Their scent dispersed, filling the air 

Every man has his own opmions* 

My desire is to remam eternally virtuous. 

Though my limbs were tom from me, I wouldn^t change. 
How then may my heart repent of its sins'? 

The beauty of my sister Hsu^ 

Now and always comes to my mmd 

She says* “Kun^ died because he was virtuous. 

For this he was killed in the wilds of Yu. 

Why should you be outspoken m the cause of virtue? 
You alone are possessed of a sense of moderation 
Thistles and wild blossoms grow in the house of others. 
You have encoimtered those who have no principles. 

I cannot go from house to house entreating 
There is no one who knows the depths of my confidmg 

The world creates its own peculiar friendships. 

Why are you still alone, refusmg to listen to me?” 

I follow the temperate ways of the Ancients, 
With trembling heart I wander the marshlands. 
I cross the Yuan and Hsiang as I journey south, 
I mtend to lay my claims at the feet of Shun.® 

The elder syster of Cho Yuan 

A famous minister under the patriarch Emperor Shun, 
i.e to the grave of the Emperor Shun 


sang the Nine Songs and Nine Colloquies, 

Hsia K^ang rejoiced in tossing his kingdom away. 

They made no plans, cut sheer through all warnings , 
Thereby the five brothers lost their inheritance.^ 

Yi® was a restless pander, a lost huntsman; 

Loving nothing better than chasing the great fox 
How could such a ruler come to a fair end^ 

It was Cho who coveted his master’s wife. 

Chiao possessed the strength of an ox 
He too was abandoned by the wayside 
He threw his life away in daily dissipation. 

And then at last he forfeited his head ^ 

Emperor Hsieh^ transgressed all rules ; 

Flagrant mdulgence led to disaster, 

For the Emperor Hsu made him a meatball. 

The House of Ym could not long endure, 

Yu and T’ang alone were reverently stem 
The dynasty of Chou taught the unmistakable way. 

Helping the virtuous, assistmg the wise, 

They followed consecrate laws impartially 

The august heavens are not moved by pity: 

Eternally they watch over and reward men’s virtues 
The saints and the wise walk in the paths of freedom — 
Surely they will receive the blessings of the earth* 

I gaze on the past and on the future: 

I have delved deep, meditating the fate of the people 
To what profit are those who have no thought of goodness? 
How owe allegiance to those devoid of virtue? 

1 The eldest son of the Emperor Yu 

* Hsia K*ang was the son of Ch’i. His name means “summer peace*, and he was noted for 
his profligacy, through which he and his four brothers were rumed 

* Yi, minister of Yu, murdered one of his two sons with the help of Cho who finally 
killed the minister and married his widow, whose name appears to have been “Great 
Fox* For a discussion of the whole legend, see Granet, Barnes ct Legendes^ H, ^13 

* Cbiao was the surviving son of Yi 

® The last and most profligate Emperor of the Hsia Dynasty (1818-1766 b c ). 


In mortal peril I accept all danger — 

Never shall I regret the things I have done , 

The blade was not n^easured to the shaft. 

So, in the old days, were men minced into meatballs. 

Therefore in dark despair I go lamenting, 

I weep because the times are out of jomt. 

Plucking the yellow orchid, wipmg away my tears, 

Like waves, like waves, they wet the lapel of my coat. 

Crablike I kneel on the mat^ and abjure Heaven: 
“Always have I espoused the middle way’^ 

Teams of jade dragons draw my phoenix chariot — 
Suddenly m a sandstorm I ascend in the air. 

At dawn I strike the linchpin and drive to Blue Tree , ^ 
Before evening comes, I shall reach Hsien Garden 
Then I shall rest awhile beside the carved gate, 

There where the sun falls with shattenng suddenness. 

I command Hi Ho^ to drive slowly, 

Bidding him not hurry over the outermost mountains ; 
The way is long, the journey weansome, 

I shall search high and low, contmually praying 

I shall water my horse at the lake of Hsien, ^ 

Hitch the bridle rems on the Tree of the Sun , 
Flicking the sun’s face with a sprig oijo-mu leaves, 

I will wander along at my own sweet will. 

The spirit of the moon heralds the way ; 

The spirit of the wind urges me forward , 

The phoenixes shall nde out before me ; 

The thimder-god is not yet prepared.^ 

Mn the attitude of complete prostration j v 

* The burial place of the patriarch Emperor Shun, supposed to be in modem Wucnow, 

* The guardian attendant of the sun. 

* A lake in whose waters the sun bathes* 

* The god of death is not yet ready 


I command the phoenixes to rise m the air. 

Day and night they must fly without resting. 

A whirlwind gathers, the storrgi is upon me, 

The clouds and rainbows attend my progress. 

Vastness of clouds thundering above me ’ 

So many colours contmually melting’ 

I order the gate-keeper to open the gates, 

But he only leans on the door and gazes at me. 

In obscure light I look for a place of rest* 

I gather orchids in the shade, biding my time 
A world in confusion, good and evil made one— 

Virtue concealed in the pangs of jealousy 

When mommg comes I nde over White Waters, i 
I climb the High Wmds and tether my horses 
Suddenly I look back and tears flow: 

I am sad there is no woman with me on these heights. 

I wander through the palace of the Green Emperor ; 

I cut the red-vemed leaves, I lengthen my girdle-pendant 
The lovely flower is not yet plucked* 

At last I see the girl who will obey me. 

Commandmg the spirit of ram to ride the clouds, 

I go in search of Fu Fei^s^ hiding place 
I unloosen my girdle — ^sign of the pledged word. 

I order Chien Hsu to arrange the matter propitiously. 

0 the confusion of the world and of women’ 

Perversity upon perversity confounded! 

In the evening I return to my humble rock, 

At dawn I rinse my hair m Weipan stream. 

So arrogantly she guards her beauty. 

Yet daily she offers herself to anyone she pleases. 

She is beautiful, but knows nothing of proprieties. 

1 shall abandon her and seek elsewhere. 

^ A vast mer m the K*un-lun Mountams on the edge of the world. “To go to the white 
waters?* often means “to die” 

* The guardian spirit of the streams 


I gaze to the fout* points of the coiiipasS. 

I wander over Heaven and come to earth again. 

Looking up, I see Chienti in her Emerald Tower ^ 

Behold the wanton concubme of Emperor K^u. 

I command the red-billed falcon to be my go-between. 

The falcon says “Nothing good will come of it”. 

Sparrows twitter and offer their services instead 
<5 how I hate the artifices of their cunning waysl 

The fnskmg puppy plays, the fox is cautious. 

Were I to press my suit, there would be dangers. 

The phoenixes have received the marriage offerings: 

I fear the High Emperor has been tfiere before me. 

I love my wanderings, but have no aim in view 
I roam amidst the outermost regions. 

As long as Hsia K"ang remamed unmamed, 

The two lovely daughters of Yu remained virgm 

My arms are weak, the go-between is stupid; 

I fear her arguments have little weight. 

The world m turmoil envies the virtuous ; 

Loving to conceal virtue, it praises vice 

The chamber of virgins is deep, maccessible. 

The wise kmg has not yet seen the light 
My desires must remain forever unappeased: 

How can I contmue to live m misery? 

I will employ spirit-weeds, auguries of bamboo, 

I will command the sorceress to tell me my destmy. 

They say “Two handsome ones should be united”. 

But whose pledged word is worth anything m love-making? 

They say: “Somewhere there are nine vast provmces, 

But you remain altogether alone. 

Go mto the distance. Avoid cleverness 

Then in your search for a girl, no one will leave you alone”. 

1 The concubme of the Emperor K*u, who gave birth to Chieh the Tyrant, when a swallow 
dropped a bnghtly coloured egg m her mouth 


Where is a place where there are no scented herbs? 

Why do you sorrow after your old home? 

In this dark world I am dazzled by bnghtness 
Who knows what is good and evil in me? 

All people are not equal m good and evil. 

Why are those fawners so strangely imlike? 

Some taste bitter herbs to excite their loins — 

Why should I not wear orchids in my girdle-pendants? 

Though they gaze on plants, they cannot name them. 

How should they prize the beauty of flawless jade? 

They would fill a bag of flowers with excrement. 

They say “The pepper of Shen is tasteless” 

I will accept the auguries of the sorceress, 

Yet my heart remains crafty as a fox. 

In the evening Wu Hsien^ will descend to me. 

I will offer him pepper and the finest rice. 

Descent of angelic hosts darkens the sky ; 

On the Mountain of Nme Sorrows we are greeted by 
flapping wmgs 

The spirits are revealed imprinted upon the sky. 

Revealing auspicious auguries 

They say “Ascend to the heights, descend to the depths, 
Seek that which is square and harmonious. 

T'ang and Yu were benevolent, they also sought wives: 
Chih and Chih Yu were their accomplished servitors.^ 

If the sentiments within you are true, 

Why then should you seek a go-between? 

Yueh^ was the architect of the Learned Cliffs: 

Wu Ting, who employed him, never doubted his skill. 

^ Wu Hsien would appear to be the guardian of the tomb of Shim 

^ T*aiig and Yu i^ere acknowledged good Emperors, Chih and Chih Yu the types of good 


* Of Yueh It is recorded that the Emperor Wu Ting of the Yang Dynasty dreamed of him, 
and awakening the next mommg, discovered that he had been exiled He was thereupon 
recalled to lugh ojBBce Lu Wang, minister under Kmg Wen of Chou, was chiefly 
re^ondble for the overthrow of Qiou Hsm, last ruler of the decaying Yang Dynasty. 


Lu Wang was clever in using a knife. 

King Wen exalted him after a chance meeting 

Ning Chh sang simple country songs- 

Chh Huan, hearing him, desired to give him honour. 

You have not reached old age , 

Your labouring days are not yet over 
I fear the voice of the butcher-bird when it sings 
In time all flowers lose their perfumes 

Splendid the red veins of my girdle-pendants 
In the shade of trees all is concealed 
The fawners have no sincerity , 

I fear they will shatter my girdle-pendants with their 

0 world in confusion — change everywhere — 

Why should I not utterly disappear? 

The orchids and peonies are no longer sweet-scented; 
Hyacmths and bluebells have changed to weeds 

How is It that the sweet-scented flowers of the past 
Now give off such evil odours? 

Surely the reason lies in this — 

The good and virtuous are weighed down by evils 

1 thought at least I could rely on flowers 

Alas, I wronged them- yet how fair they seemed’ 

Men destroy beauty simply for the sake of wrongmg her. 
How shall they find what they desire among flowers? 

Chiao, the pepper-flower, ripe with obscene flattery,^ 
Filled a bag of flowers with dogweed’ 

He forced upon her a deliberate entrance. 

Where is the perfume he could offer to a bride? 

The stream af time pours every thmg away; 

What IS there that remains unchanged? 

The pepper-plant and orchid are changed utterly. 

And so too are harebells and fntillanes. 

1 Perhaps a pun on the name of Ssuma Tzu Lan, the numster and pnnce chiefly 
responsible for Ch*u Yuan’s dismissal 


My girdle-pendants are pure and flawless ; 

Yet sometimes even virtue comes to be destroyed. 

No, these faint perfumes shall never fade, 

Nor shall their sweetness ever vanish away^ 

I order my life harmoniously; I rejoice; 

I search hither and thither for the hidden one 
While these adornments remain, I shall be steadfast 
In my farflung pursuit up and down the world 

The sorceress foretold a happy augury: 

I must choose an auspicious day for departure. 

I cut the red-veined leaves for food. 

For me the ghost of these leaves *will be as rice. 

I will be driven by a team of flymg dragons, 

My chanots will be adorned vuth jade and ivories 
How can the woimded heart find peace? 

Still for interminable miles I must wander. 

Even now I have not reached the K"un-lun mountains ; 
Long IS the way, there are whirlwinds and sandstorms. 
Among dark shades, rambow-coloured clouds arise. 
Tmg-ting ring the phoenix bells 

In the morning I start from the Ford of Heaven, 

In the evenmg I will reach the outermost West. 
Banners wave on the wings of phoenixes 
In peace and harmony soanng and hovering. 

Suddenly in front of me I see Shifting Sands, 

Slowly I pace the banks of the Red !Wver. 

I wave to the Scaly Dragon to ferry me over, 

I crave from the August West propitious journeying. 

Long is the way, innumerable the pitfalls. 

Calmly I ride within my chariots. 

The road to Po-chou^ winds and twists to the left. 

I appoint the West Ocean to be our meeting-place. 

2 Po-dbou IS faiiy cowitiy, lying to the nortli-west of the K^un-lun mountains. 


I collect my chariots together, a thousand m number. 
Their linchpins are jade, they ride abreast, 

Eight dragons yoked to them in curving teams 
With banners of coloured cloud like waving snakes. 

I shall restram my zeal, dispatch all haste. 

My spirit shall fly through the boundless heavens 
I sing the Nine Songs, I dance to the music of Shun. 

My days are spent in refreshment of pleasure. 

So shall I ascend to heaven's uttermost glory. 

Suddenly, looking down, I shall see my home 
My charioteer laments, my charger is filled with sorrow. 
They prance and curvet, but do not advance 

So I have come to the end — 

No more can be told 

There is no good man in the state, 

There is no one who knows me. 

Why should I still devote myself to my country, 

Smce there is none to rule her virtuously? 

I shall follow P'eng Hsien to his graved 

Note to The Nine Songs 

he Nine Songs may not be entirely die work of Chn Yuan, there is mcreasmg 
v-idence that he did little more than adapt and perhaps put in order some songs 
^hich he found during his wanderings Even Wang Yi, the earliest editor and 
Dmmentator of the songs, held this opimon, and recent scholarship has done no 
lore than reinforce the earlier opinion It seems probable that the songs were 
nginally composed in the language of the state of Ch’u, which was not Chinese 
ut a form of Tai, belonging to the Indochinese group of languages But even 
lough the ongind songs were neither Chinese nor composed by Chu Yuan, the 
nagery is so distinctly his, and the feelmg so evidently spnngs from the same 
5urces as the Li Sao^ which has been translated here as “Encountering Sorrow”, 
iiat it is dijSicult not to believe that he changed them accordmg to his purpose, 
[id gave vent to his own feelings. 

'hey would appear to be shamanistic songs sung by young and beautifully 
ressed priestesses, perhaps over tripods which contained scented herbs, and 
erhaps in a state of trance. The continual use of flight-imagery, the references 
;> the soanng and swooping of the gods, suggests lie kind of imagery and the 
md of imagmation which occurs in dreams or mtoxication by gods. In their 
resent state, the colloquies between the gods and the mmistrants have a 
teadlong speed which is entirely lacking in the more muted Booh of Songs, 


And even the deliberate eroticism seems to be foreign, entirely unlike the 
more deliberately unsuggestive verses of the Ch’u Dynasty, where love affairs 
and the woman’s longing for the man are treated with a quiet compassion and a 
grave tenderness 

The poems to the two arbiters of fate suggest that two different tnbal songs 
have been incorporated The relationship between the two arbiters, or why 
there should be two arbiters at all, is never clearly stated The commentator 
of the Hou Han-shu says “The Arbiter of Fate is a spirit, the supenor of the 
destroyers He measures eight feet, has a small nose, is far-sighted, has much 
moustache and is lean”, — description which hardly tallies with Chu Yuan’s 
description Once Chuang-tzu talked m a dream to a skull and said “If I could 
induce the Arbiter of Fate to restore your body to life, would you wish for 
this?” Wang Yi comments “As master of the Yin he kills As master of the 
Yang he gives life The Arbiter of Fate always mounts the clear atmosphere of 
heaven and directs the destiny of everyone’s life and death” — ^a commentary 
which adds nothing as usual to the original What is remarkable is that the 
erotic tinge, which occurs throughout the poems, should be most evident in 
the hymns to the two arbiters of fate 

For a further elucidation of the complex problems involved in the hymns, see 
Eduard Erckes, The God of Death in Ancient China, Tung-paOy XXXV, 1-3 



These poems were engraved on the ten stone (flinders, found around 
600 A D» in the southern part cf Shensi province and removed in 1 126 
to Pehng^ where thej are now preserved in the Confuaan Temple They 
were long ascribed to the reign of the Chou Dynasty King Hsuan 
(^828'— y 62 B C ), but recent research has proved almost conclusively 
that they belong to the Ch'in Dynasty (B C 2S5-209) The character 
of the calligraply^ which is often exceedingly beaut ful, lies between the 
'^greater seaP and the ‘'lesser seal”. A large number of the characters are 
no longer decipherable, and rather less than half of the original 700 
characters can be deciphered today, though a few characters are still 
preserved from rubbings made during the Sung Dynasy The present 
translation is based on the text and notes of Professor Tan Lang, of 
Lienta Universi^ — ^YU min-chuan 


Our chanots are strong, 

Our horses well-matched, 

Our chanots are beautiful, 

Our teams are sleek, 

The lords so many and shinmg 
Go hunting with banners waving. 

The does and deers pressed hard, 

These are what the lords are seekmg. 

The lords are holding fast 

To splendid hom-bows 

We drive agamst the bulls 

Which come with thundermg hoof-beats 

In clouds of hot dust 

We defend ourselves and watch 

For when the stags run fast. 

We struggle against the wild bulls 
That come so huge and so rough. 

When the vrild bulls come out alone, 

O we shoot, we shoot.^ 

' Compare the poem Oht Cbtmots are Strong m tl» Book of Songs. 



The Chian river brimming over * 

Falls into a deep gulf. 

Where the lords are fishing 
All kinds of carp. 

In the clear shallows 
Small fish are swimming idly: 

In shoals these silvery ones 

Are strivmg for a bite 

Yet in muddy waters 

There are herrings and perch and dories, 

Whose flesh is greasy and choice. 

Oh, how fast they run, 

The throwers of nets! 

What kind of fish is it? 

It is carp and trout 
Which can be strung together 
On aspen or willow twigs. 


Our waters are clean, 

Our roads are even, 

Our land has been divided, 

Decorated with beautiful plants . . . 

Our Emperor will be forever at peace . . . 


Safe IS our chariot, 

Drawn by four portly horses. 

Reined with bridles of copper, 

The right horses stout and strong, 

The left light as wavmg banners . . . 

Now we gam the wild plain, 

Here our chariots pause. 

We climb from the boxes. 

We hold up embroidered bows. 

We aim, we shoot the innumerable boars. 

The hares, the pheasants, the stags and the roes . 

^ A nyer in the south-west of Shensi proYincc* 



The sweet 1 ram falls. 

Furioxisly the curx;ent rushes along, 

The river brims over its banks. 

The lords ride on horseback 

And are about to wade m the stream. 

The Chian river is overflowing. 

The water is cold. 

They turn back m their warships: 

From Mei^ they start westward. 

Many are these men vdth horses 

Who fasten their ships together and go downriver. 

Sailing on the south limit or the nordi. 

Their oars and paddles go deep 
, , . one side of the nver 
And never . . ceasing. 

Rowing or resting, resting or rowmg 
. . . die affair.® 

translated bj Yu Mm-chuan 

A ling which has been translated as "spirit *in the poems of Chn Yuan, here has the 
meamng of ”benevolenlf , "according to the augunes", "auspicious* This fragment may be 
the concludmg piece of the senes, descnbmg the return of the huntsmen by boat from 
the foray, but no defimte order of the drums is known 
* A place m south-west Shensi province, 

*The homes were apparently shipped m galleys, and the servants rowed their masters 
home. The last Ime may have mmcated the successhil conclusion of the afi&ir* 



206BC.-AD 221 


known as the Emperor Kao Ti 

reigned 206-194 B-C* 

Liu Pang was born near Hsuchoi^u in northern Kiangsu^ and when still 
young raised the standard of revolt with the help of a descendant of the 
old royal house of Ch*Uy who was at the time only a shepherd The revolt 
succeeded in 206 B C., but the prince f Ch'u was assassinated^ and 
Liu Pang founded the dynas^ alone, naming it cfter an obscure river 
where he had once been stationed. He established his capital near 
Ch'ang-an, the modern Sian He was the gran father of the famous 
Prince of Huai-nan. 


The great wind rises, clouds are scattered; 

Master of all seas, I return to my home 

Where are my warriors who guard the four frontiers 

^ This short poem sets the key for much that happened afterwards There is a weightmess 
in Han Dynasty poetry which comes from the remorseless wars and from the sohdity of 
the kmgdom. The five word Imes, in which the followmg selection from the ’Nineteen 
Songs were composed, arc supposed to have been first -wntten by Su Wu and Li Ling, 
two military generals under the Emperor Wu Ti of western Han, and the seven-lmc 
verses are supposed to have been imtiated by the Emperor himself, and both were 
modelled after the examples of the barbanan tribes with whom Su Wu spent nineteen 
years of imprisonment, and Li Lmg spent the remamder of his life The greater part of 
the poems m the Book of Songs were composed in four word Imes, though occasionally 
lines of two, three, five, six, seven and eight lines occur 

Up to this moment poetry was sung, and it was not till the end of the Han dynasty that 
poetry was completely divorced from music The four-syllable hues were to be used 
agam by Tao Yuan-mmg, but this was probably a deliberate attempt to recapture the 
ancient mood of the songs In i^o B C the Emperor Wu Ti mstituted the Yo Fu, or 
Musical Academy, which encouraged verses with four, five and seven syllables, but it 
was the last two which remained the most characteristic of the penod 




It was inevitable that the themes of the Book of Songs should become 
more complex^ and the anonymous Nineteen Poems composed in the 
Han Djnasy (206 B C-AT>. 22 1) provide a commentary on the 
development of Chinese lyrical feeling written and sung probably a 
thousand years later, but continuing and deepening the tradition, 
Th^ lack the colour and the gaiey of the Songs, but for the fast time 
perspectives become visible, and ampler music is heard and there is 
an increasing richness in the original Chinese, which cannot be combed 
in English, The poems are all written infae-character lines, were prob- 
ably based on folk-songs and have had an enormous influence on sub- 
sequent poetry, particularly during the Vang dynasties, when all that 
concerned Han was deeply studied, imitated and explored — sometimes 
ad nauseam. What is important is that the poems define an attitude to 
life more adult and with a deeper melancholy than the Songs Since these 
poems have been exquisitely translated by Arthur Wal^, only three in 
new versions are given here. 


The splendid moon shines on the fiery night, 

Making the house-cnckets smg on the east wall. 

The Jade Scales^ pomt to the beginmng of winter. 
Scattermg of a million stars across the sky^ 

Already the fields are white with hoarfrost ; 

Now comes the sudden change of season. 

The autumn cicada chirrups among the bnars, 

But where have the black swallows gone? 

Once I had a fhend who shared my studies 
He fanned his wings and rose clear to the sky, 

Forgetting how once we walked hand in hand. 

He left me, like one who leaves only footprints behind. 

1 The first of three stars (Ahoth, Mizar and Akhair) which form the tail of the Great Bear, 
htit here used to signify the whole tail. 



South lies the Winnowing Fan, north lies the Ladle, ^ 

The Herd-boy whose oxen have never been yoked 
A friend who is not constant as a rock 
Is unworthy of the name — ^utterly unprofitable. 

Infinitely apart he the Herd-boy star 

And the streaming whiteness of the Lady of the Han river * 

So delicately she plies her white fingers, 

Click-click go the spindles of her loom 
When the day ends, her task is not done, 

And her bitter tears flow down like ram. 

The Han river is shallow and clear, 

And yet how great a difference separates them. 

Always a nver yawns before them 
Forever gazmg, never being able to speak, 


I drive my chariot down through the East Gate, 

From afar I see the graveyard below the North Wall 
The white aspens are sighmg, sighmg. 

Pmes and cypresses line the broad road 
Under the earth are men who died long ago. 

Dark, dark are their long nights of rest 

Far, far below the Yellow Spnngs 

For a thousand years they he in xmchanging sleep. 

The jang and the /in change in their seasons. 

Like mormng dew are our destined years 

The term of life has not the strength of metal or stone ; 

The mourners themselves become mourned. 

Neither saint nor sage can escape this evil. 

Seeking the food by which to become immortal spirits. 

Many &ive suffered from strange medicmes 

Better to relish fine wine 

And clothe our bodies m silks and satins. 

1 The Winnowmg Fan is part of Saggitanus , the Herd-boy corresponds to three stars 
(beta, alpha and gamma) m Aqmlon the reference is to the closmg lines of one of the 
songs in the Boch of Songs 

In the south is the Winnowmg Fjm, 

But It cannot be used for siftmg gram 
In the north is the Ladle, 

Which cannot scoop wme or liquor 

* and two other stars m Lyra The Han River is the Milky Way, which, except on 
the seventh day of the seventh moon, se|»rates the Weavmg Lady and the Herd-boy 



South of the river we gadier lotos, 

How round, how round are the lotos leaves. 
Fishes sport among the lotos leaves. 

They sport to the east of the leaves, 

They sport to the west of the leaves. 

They sport to the south of the leaves, 

They sport to the north of the leaves. ^ 


She went up the mountain to gather sweet orchids, 

She came down the hill and met her old husband 
Long she knelt before him, and asked him* 

“How is your new wife?” 

“Though my new wife talks well, 

She is not so charming as the old. 

They are alike in the colour of their faces, 

But the work of their hands is not the same. 

The new wife comes down through the gate to meet me, 
The old wife came down from her tower. 

The new wife is clever at embroidering silk. 

The old wife worked well over cotton spools 
With embroidered silk an mch can be done m a day. 

Of cotton cloth more than five feet. 

If we compare silks and cotton, 

The old wtfe is not less than the new” 

1 Perhaps the most famous of all academy pieces It was often repeated, and the openmg 
words Chiang nan keb t5*ai ben became a dmg on the poetic market It is notable in that 
the last four Imes, which compose a chorus, are not rhymed No one knows what they 




He was born in Yu-chih m Honan and rose to high office under the 
Emperor Wen Ti the Wei Djnas^^ but later exchanged the post for 
one where there was a better cook Living during the time of vicious 
wars between the Three Kingdoms (J.D. 22— 26s) y he deliberatelj 
withdrew from the Court and founded with six others the famous group 
of scholars known as the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, who threw 
pie^ to the winds, drugged themselves with wine and herbs, and were 
constrained towards a bitter coarse-grained humour in defance <f the 
war-like times. He was a Taoist and a musician, but is known now chiefj 
for his poetij and for some excellent stories told about him. He died of 
grif after hearing of the execution of his close friend Chi Kang. 


The strange bird makes its abode in the woods: 

Its name is ‘‘phoenix” 

In the mormng it drmks at the honeyed sprmg, 

At night it seeks rest on the hillside. 

Throughout the land there rmgs its shrill note. 
Neck-cranmg, its eye reaches all comers of the earth. 
There sweeps along a gust of west wind, 

Wherefore it causes the plumage to be impaired. 

Then it flies westward towards the K'un-lun mountains, 
And who knows whether it will ever return? 

Now a great regret seizes upon my mmd — 

If only I had my home in a different place! 

translated bj Yang Chi-sing 



When I was thirteen or fourteen 
I delighted in the study of history and the odes. 
My plain clothes covered a heart of jade. 

In morals I was greater than Yen and Ming ^ 
Always I gazed from the wmdow in all directions , 
I climbed up mountains to greet what I so piously 

All I saw were tombs and mounds on the hills. 
Ten thousand ages passed m a single moment, 

A thousand autumns, ten thousand days passed. 

A glorious name is of no worth 
I occupied myself with the study of great books, 
And now I laugh at this folly. 

1 Yen Shu Tzu, a recluse of the Lu State in the fourth century B C who, when a 
neighbour’s hoise was blown down and a girl took refuge with him, sat up until dawn, 
holdup a hghted candle in his hand 






He was a hermit who wrote with a studied gravi^ and careless indifference 
to fame, content to plough his farm and watch his children playing in 
the farn^ard, so quietlj observant and meditative that when we read 
him we can almost touch him, so close he is even now to our most meditative 
moods. There is nothing histrionic here. He is silence speaking to 
itsefy and jet there is nothing tenuous in his writings — th^ are quiet, 
but thej are etched deep, and the smouldering passion of the hermit who 
deliberate^ divorced himsef from official Ife and celebrated the 
contentment <f the farmer* s progress is even more charactensticalfy 
Chinese than the passion of Tu Fu or the dancing delight in life which 
pours through the poetij <f Li To, He wrote with a kind of sad, troubled 
pefection. He wrote once “The highest pleasure in Ife is ploying jokes 
with children**. At another time, resigning from his post as magistrate 
at Teng-tse in Kiangsi, he said , “I will not crook the hinges <f my back for 
fve pecks of rice a day** Thereafter he returned to his farm, his chrj-- 
santhemums and his lute, and lived out his days in a clou^ seremtj, 
never quite understanding the world, troubled and afraid of death, 
determined to have nothing to do with politics, a pure lonelj scholar 
desperatelj anxious to do what was right, haf-Cofucian, haf Taoist 
or Buddhist, a man who was never entiref at home in the world but 
intense f human, so human indeed that we know him better than we know 
aij other Chinese poet — his likes, his dislikes, his terrible scorn for all 

He was born into the troubled times which followed the dowifall 
f the Han djnasj, but no one knows the exact date on which he was 
born — It may have been m the first year of the reign of Tai Yuan 
(A,D, 3 y 6 ) or in the second year of the reign <f Hsien-An (A,D. 372) 
It was a time of political experiment, of reorientation and vast corruption, 
and he hated all these things. His great-granfather, the celebrated 
Tao Kan, once held the post (f Minister of War, and even then died poor. 
His father and gran<f other were both magistrates, while bis mother*s 
father was appointed General of the Western Marches, The f ami f should 
have been rich — there were great opportunities for acquiring wealth — 


but thej were alwciys poor^ reusing to be corrupt, following a familj 
tradition, Tao Yuan-ming wrote of his maternal grandfather 

He behaved always correctly, an3 never boasted of his 
deeds. You could hardly detect from his expression whether 
he was angry or pleased He was fond of drinking, but only 
in moderation, and when he indulged his fancy, he would 
look as peaceful as though he was alone, even if he was 
surrounded by many people 

Partlj It was heredi^, and the familj tradition, partlj his own 
innate contempt for the shows and ceremonies of life There is always 
robust good sense in him, an underling graviy of manner and a queer 
streak of humour He praised all the seasons, but seems to have prf erred 
autumn, when the chysanthemums blossom He painted in thin light 
colours, and for this reason has been called the poet of old people, 
but in fact he is the poet^s poet, his verses possessing in the original 
Chinese (th^ are quite untranslatable) a classic perfection of idiom 
He IS the nightingale rather than the sfylark, and if he can be compared 
with ary European poets at all, we must go to the Virgil of the Georgies 
and the more recent poems (f Robert Frost, He would deliberately select 
the most colourless words, not because he disliked colour, but because he 
was intent on describing things as thy are without adventitious aids, in 
the same way that Yeats, in revising his poetry, would search for the 
starkest, not the most evocative adjective. He was almost the first Chinese 
poet to describe nature intimately. He was the herald of a more accurate 

And yet there was passion underneath You can feel it in nearly all 
his poems, a controlled passion which smoulders and only rarely bursts 
into flame, but nevertheless continually present — the passion of a man 
who had seen much, who feared the barbarians massing on the north and 
the incursions of the Sung armies and who lived at a time when immense 
changes were sweeping over China — the vast southern movement of the 
population, the desperate and nearly always unavailing attempts 
towards political stabiby. He was too practical to take rfuge in the 
mountains like the rishis — there remained farming and the consolations 
if a farmer* s beggarly existence. In a long prface to “Returning Home**, 
be wrote: 

My femily is poor, and it is difficult for me to support 
my fenuly by cultivation The room is full of children, but 


the cask of wine is nearly always empty. When I lacked means 
to get sustenance, many of my acquamtances advised me to 
serve in the government. And even though this did not suit my 
interest, still it was not easy to gam such a post But the world 
was busy wdth its affairs, and pnnces and dukes vied with 
one another m employing men of ability, and so through the 
recommendation of my uncle I received an appomtment as a 
chief official in a small district. The country remained in 
confusion, and upon my soul I was sick of servmg m a distant 
place Peng-tse is only some thirty miles from my home, 
and in addition there were the advantages of official fields, 
which assisted my income* so I undertook these duties. 
But after a few days I was overcome by a feeling of home- 
sickness. Why^ To serve there was against my instinct, and 
could not be put right by affectations. Hunger and cold can 
cause physical suffering, but to do things against my con- 
science still tortures my spirit. There is a precious lesson 
which I have derived from hard experience* one who 
indulges himself m worldly affairs merely satisfies his mouth 
and his stomach. But even then I conceived the desire to wait 
for the next crop, and then leave my office silently. A few 
days later my sister died in Wuchang I was eager to go to 
her funeral, and so I resigned of my ovm accord I have been 
an official for little more than eighty days, and as for my 
home-coming, this is sufficiently explamed in the poem that 
follows ^ 

He had spent, according to the commentators, exactlj eigh^-three 
days in c^ce, hut from that moment he entered into a Ife of seclusion. 
The Taoists and the Ch'an Buddhists have claimed him as their disciple, 
and the storj is told that one daj Tao Yuan-ming and Ling Ching- 
hsiu, a Taoist monk, called on Hui-juan, a famous Buddhist scholar, 
who lived alone on a mountain, Thej were so deep in conversation that 
th^ passed b^ond the bridge over the Tiger Biver, when a tiger 
suddenlj roared aloud Th^ looked at one another, and laughed. 
The storj, like so marj Ch*an Buddhist stories, is quite deliberatelj 
pointless, but it illustrates the affection in which Tao Yuan-ming was 
always held On the place where thej had laughed a temple called the 
San-hsiao T^ing was erected to commemorate their laughter. 

He loved nature and wine, children and cbjsanthemums , he loved 
^ Translated by Yen Whai-sheu 



walking desultonlj through the countrjside , he delighted m the seasons. 
He grimaces sometimes against the cold and against death, but he knew 
th^ were inevitable, and took contort in birds Of his poetrj Su 
Tung~p^o wrote ^^There is no poet I treasure more than Tao Yuan-mmg , 
he alone pleases me He wrote few poems thej are plain jet beautiful, 
rich and jet not ornamented Tu Fu, Li Po and all the others are iiferioi 
to him^\ whereupon Su Tung-p*o proceeded to model over a hundred 
poems on those of Tao Yuan-ming, following the rhjme-scheme and c?e- 
liberatelj imitating them Chu Hsi, the great philosopher, said that 
his poems were so plain, peaceful and unaffected that thej seemed to 
have been composed bj nature hersef 

He made no demands on fame, or even on life . he seems to have been 
contented with the world as he saw it — the world of vallejs and plains, 
(f a deliberate simplicij and an incurable nostalgia As Su Tungffo 
imitated his poems, so he mutated poems of the earlier Han period 
He so loved chrjsanthemums that even now, ff teen hundred jears after 
his death, it is almost impossible for a Chinese to see a chrjsanthemum 
without summoning his name He is the poet of quietness and solitude, 
and described himsef perfectlj in prose 

The Scholai of Five Willows is a native of I know not 
what place, and no one knows his name or surname. Because 
there were five willows beside his house, he was known 
simply as the Scholar of the Five Willows He is quiet, even 
taciturn, has no desire for riches or fame He amused himself 
with books, but never to such an extent that he would 
trouble himself with exact mterpretations When he found 
a passage that particularly delighted him, he was so happy 
that he went without food 

He had a passion for wine, but sometimes he was so 
poor that he could obtain none. His friends realised this, 
and they never forgot to invite him over for a drink. He 
always emptied his cup, determmed whatever else happened 
to get drunk. After he is drunk he retires, and cares nothing 
at all where he finds himself The four walls of his house are 
bare and tattered, and do not shelter him from wind and sun 
Wearing a short flax-cloth jacket, all tom, and carrying an 
empty rice-bowl, he is perfectly content. 

He touses himself by writmg occasional poems, wherein 
his aspirations are revealed, having no interest m worldly 
success or failure. And so his life passes to ite end. 


The prose fragment^ ^^The Peach-blossom Fountain’*, has been in- 
eluded here, partlj for its sheer beau^, but also because of its deep 
influence on all the poetrj ^that comes efterwards Once again the 
image cf “the return”, which dominates some of liie most superb tian 
poems and which is visible throughout the Tao Teh Ching, achieves 
a perfect expressioti. 


During the reign of Vai Yuan of the Tsin Djnas^, a fisherman (f 
Wu-ling was pushing his boat up a stream, forgetting to notice how far 
he was going Suddenly he came upon a forest of peach-trees which lay 
for several hundred paces along both sides of the river There were no 
other trees. Beautiful were the fragrant herbs, and the petals were 
continual^ dropping from the branches Wondering at the place he 
had come to, the fisherman went on to see where the forest ended, and 
found that it ended at the source of the river, and diere he saw a mountain 
with a small cave in which a crack cf light gleamed beyond. 

Leaving his boat, the fisherman went through the opening of the 
cave. At first it was so narrow that he found dijficul^ in passing through, 
but after several tens <f paces he suddenly came into broad daylight, 
he saw the open plains, the tiry farmsteads and rich fields with delighful 
lakes, mulberries, bamboos and suchlike things. Paths threaded across the 
fields He heard dogs barking and cocks crowing, and saw men and women 
walking about or working , and th^ wore clothes exactly like those worn 
by people outside The old men had yellow hair and the young wore 
their hair in loops, and all seemed joyous and contented. 

But when they saw the fisherman, th^ were alarmed and asked 
where he came from He answered all their questions, they invited him 
to their homes, and brought wine and killed chickens for supper Soon 
other villagers heard of his arrival, and came to enquire about him. 
Cf themselves they said that in an ancient time their for fathers, in 
order to avoid the disasters which fell on the Ch*in Dynasy, had fied 
with their wives and their children and their neighbours into this 
secluded county. Thy never come out again, and so thy had been 
separated from the other world Thy asked who was reigning thy 
had never heard of the Han Dynasly, and still less had thy heard of 
Wei and Tsin The fisherman told them all he knew; thy sighed to 
hear it, deeply moved^ 

Each m turn invited the fisherman into his house, spreading out food 
and wine, jfter staying several days, he bade them farewell. The 


people the place said to him ^It is not worth while to speak of us to 
outsiders^. When he came out oj the cave, he found his boat and returned 
along the way he came, and all the while he attempted to remember 

When he reached the ay, he went to the governor and related his 
discovery. The governor sent some men to go with him. Thy looked for 
the landmarks, lost their way and never found the road to the place. 

Liu Tse-chi, a high-minded scholar of 'Nanyang, heard of the story, 
and jyftlly made plans to make the journey But nothing came of it, 
and soon afterwards he died <fter an illness Since that time no one has 
sought to find the ford. 

translated by Yang Yeh-tzu 


Hunger drives me along my road: 

I do not know where I am gomg 
Drifting about m this neighbourhood, 
Embarrassed I knock on the door 
The master knows why I have come, 

His gifts are such as I had hoped. 

So we chatter to the day's end. 

Each cup dramed and replenished, 

And happy in our new friendship 
We begm to compose poetry 
“You favour me like a washerwoman, ^ 

But I am no future hero. 

How can I show you my heart's gratitude^ 
I will requite you from the dark Shades" 

^ Han Hsm, Marqtus of Huai-ym, once went fishing m the nver outside the city, a 
washer^^oman, seeing how hungry he looked, gave him food He thanked her, saying 
that he would one day repay her kindness, but the washerwoman answered him angjily, 
saying «he wanted no reward. He helped lau Pang to bring the Han Dynasty mto iSmg 
As tl^ result of a plot 1 ^ was later seized and beheaded in 156 B C 



Softly and imhampered an empty boat glides on 
Ta and fro along the stream of etermty. 

Scarcely has the year begun 

When we are half-way among the constellations 

Beyond the south wmdow everything blossoms, 

The north forests are well-wooded and luxunant. 

Down to mysterious pools pours timely rain, 

Winds from warmer climates ruifHe the early dawn 
Whoever comes must go. 

Mortal destiny commands that we shall leave. 

Remam with your proper destiny to the end, 

Leaning on elbows we shall not harm the inward wholeness : 
Whether the changing current is foul or fair. 

The ups and downs can never touch our freedom 
To behave in this way shows a lofty spirit — 

What need is there to climb high mountams? 


So I lived in a thatched cottage on a narrow lane, 
Always content, as long as I could avoid coaches 
Fiercely the wind blew in midsummer, 

Suddenly my house was burnt down 
Of the whole house not a room was left 
I went to live in a boat in front of the door. 

Far away, herald of a new autumn. 

The clear moon will soon be at the full 

The herbs m the garden are now sproutmg again, 

But the frightened birds have not yet returned. 

I stand here at midnight, my thoughts afar off, 

A glance embraces all the Nine Heavens. 

I, since my youth, have been proud and stubborn — 
Forty years and more have passed away. 


Appearances follow their destined paths, 

But the abode of the spirit is always calm. 

Firm and steadfast is my character: 

Not jade nor stone could be as hard 

I think of the Golden Age 

When the produce of fields was never stolen, 

When people could fill their bellies carelessly, 

Rising at dawn, returning to sleep m the evening 
But since I cannot live m that age, 

I prefer to water my garden 

m the early Spring of the dynastic year Kwei-mao 


In ancient times I heard of the south acres. 

And yet I never once put foot on them. 

There have been men with often empty bowls. 

But can we avoid nsmg in the Spring^ 

In the early morning I prepare my yoke, 

At the begmnmg my mmd has already travelled afar oflF 
The birds sing in welcommg the new season, 

The mild winds bring added blessings 
Cold bamboos cover wild paths. 

The land is remote — ^few visit it 
Therefore the old man who planted his staff, ^ 

Lightly went away and did not return. 

Believing this, I feel inferior to one with a broad view 
The trudi it preserves is not in the least shallow, 


The Ancient Master left us a precept: 

We should care for the Tao, not for poverty. 

I looked eagerly towards him — ^he was too far to be 

So my purpose is to return to my arduous toil. 

^ One day when Tzu-lu was walking behind the Master, he fell behind and met an old man 
carrying a basket over his staff Tzu-lu said “Sir, have you seen my master?* The old man 
answered, saying “You, who do not work with your four limbs, nor sift the five grains — 
who IS your master?* Thereupon he planted his staff in the ground and began weeding, 
while Tzu-lu stood there with hands folded together in respect Analects of ConfucitiSf 
XVIII, vii 


Wielding the plough, joyfully I ply my trade, 
Laughing I urge on the farmers. 

Winds from ^ar sweep across open fields. 

The young com also *is refreshed 
Though the harvest is not yet brought in. 

What we have now gives us great happiness 
The ploughman and the sower sometimes rest, 
No strangers ask about their ways. 

Together at sunset we return home, 

And with a jar of wme I reward my neighbours 
Singing verses, I close the cottage door 
I am half as contented as a coxmtryman 


A guest resides in me. 

Our interests are not altogether the same 
One of us is drunk 
The other is always awake 
Awake and drunk — 

We laugh at one another, 

And we do not understand each other^s world 
Proprieties and conventions — 

Such folly to follow them in earnest 
Be proud, be unconcerned 
Then you will approach wisdom 
Listen, you drunken old man, 

When day dies. 

Light a candle. 


The lonely orchid grows in the courtyard, 

Retaming its fragrance till the coimng of the wind 
Then of a sudden a fresh breeze stirs, 

And the orchid rises clear from the weeds 
Continumg the road, he has lost the old apathy 
With faith in reason he may find the way out. 

Once awakened, let him think of returning. 

When the birds are all killed, the bow is thrown away 




Orchids blossomed beneath the window, 

Thickly the willows shaded the halL 
When first I took leave of you, 

I did not mtend to go on a long journey. 

This wanderer a thousand h from home 
Met on the way a good friend* 

Before we could speak our hearts were overcome, 
Not that we had lifted our wine-cups. 

The orchids were withered and the willows wan* 
Our words are not redeemed. 

I bid farewell to my youthful friends. 

We have not been true and steadfast. 

In our passion we wished to nsk Our lives. 

After we have parted, where is our pledge? 


There is a worthy man m the east 
Whose garments are seldom perfect 
In thirty days he will take nine meals. 

And he will wear out a hat in ten years 
No one leads a more bitter life, 

Yet his countenance is always fresh. 

I want to visit this old man. 

In the morning I start, crossing streams and mountains: 
Evergreen pines border the path on both sides. 

White clouds linger near caves. 

He knows why I have come. 

Takes down his lyre and plays for me. 

The first note startles the departing crane. 

The second note sings of the solitary pheasant. 

I wish to stay with you here 

From now on to the end of the bitter cold year. 

^ Wiittm in liie sme versification as the WzKtecn Songs 



All things have their own shelter. 

But the lonely cloud has nothing to lean on: 
Faintly it vanishes from the sky. 

When shall I see agam its shedding light? 

The rosy morning opens the night mist. 
Innumerable birds flutter along. 

One bird stirs slowly from the forest 
And returns before the fall of evenmg. 

To keep the measure and stay m old pathways 
Would mean to suffer cold and himger. 

If no one knows my character. 

Let It be — ^why should I grieve^ 


In early mommg someone knocks at my door, 

Throwmg on my unbuttoned clothes, I open the door 

"Who are you, my friend?” I ask. 

There is an old, hnd good-hearted man, 

Bnngmg with him a wme-pot. 

Believing that I have fallen on evil days. 

"Under an old straw roof, my friend, 

Humility does not go well with your life 
All the generations are the same. 

I beg you not to let your legs be caked m mud” 

I was so deeply moved by the old man^s words, 

For my soul is fashioned otherwise than theirs. 

Perhaps I shall learn to walk in the dust of their wheels, 
But to be false to myself — ^how shall I expose myself? 
"Let us drink and enjoy the wine you have brought, 

For my path is already laid out and cannot be altered”. 



At the foot of south mountain I sow beans, 

The weeds tangle them, the bean-shoots are weak. 

I rise early and scratch in the wilderness. 

Under the moonlight I return with my hoe on my shoulder. 

The footpath between the furrows so narrow, the grasses so long 
That my clothes are moistened with dew. 

Why should I care when my clothes are wet^ 

I only hope to make myself a hermit 


The bitter cold year comes to an end. 

In my cotton gown I look for the sun m the porch. 

The southern orchard is bare, without leaves. 

The rottmg branches are heaped m the north garden. 

I empty my cup and drmk to the dregs, 

And when I look in the kitchen, no smoke rises from the hearths ; 
Books and poems he scattered beside my chair, 

Yet the light is dying, and I shall have no time to read 
My life here is not like the agony m Ch'en,^ 

But sometimes I suffer from bitter reproaches. 

Then let me remember, to calm my distress, 

That the sages of old suffered from the same melancholy. 


Where there is life, there must be death. 

Dying early — even this may not be a short life. 

Last night we were human beings. 

But today we enter into the hsts of the spirits. 

Where are our souls going? 

Are they attached to our withered bodies? 

My adorable children will weep for their father, 

And some good friends will caress my dead body with tears. 

^ Where Coniiicius nearly starved to death 


As for myself, I shall entirely have lost sensation ; 

There will be no diflFerence between right and wrong. 

When a thousand years have gone past, 

None will remember the glory and humility of today 
Now that I live in the world, 

All I regret is that I did not drink like a prodigal 

What I could not drmk during my life, 

They will not give me after my death 
The ants only have wings in the spring. 

Let us enjoy life while there is still time 

It will be too late when they are weepmg round my death-bed, 

When my eyes see no longer and I am imderground. 

On the day when, havmg been laid out m the morning m the mam 

At mght I sleep for the first time m a wilderness 
The tall grasses will wave round my tomb. 

The vsond will moan m the shadmg poplars 
Autumn, a white frost covering the ground. 

The horses browsing and neighmg all round me 
There m my small undergroimd chamber, alone, 

I shall be imprisoned for thousands of years 
A thousand years without seeing the light again: 

A thousand years without spealmig to a human being. 

Those who brought me here m a procession 
Have gone again, each one to his home. 

Some weep, and others smg 
I am nothmg, buried deep m the earth 


The autumn chrysanthemums have the loveliest colours. 

Flowers and leaves all moistened with the dew 
I drmk this cup of ali-forgetful wme. 

And so drive all my earthly cares away. 

Alone I lift the cup to my lips* 

The wme is poured when the cup is empty 
And everything is silent at the setting of the sim, 

While the homing birds flock to the woods there is chirping. 
Under the east balcony I shout boisterously 
Satisfied now that my humble life can go on. 



In the East there dwells a scholar 

Who is often found wanting in clothing and sheets. 

In thirty days he has but nine meals, 

One carp lasts him a whole decade. 

Yet for dl this distress and poverty 
He always wears an admirable countenance. 

I went to meet him one mommg, 

Climbing over hills and wadmg dirough streams ; 

Before his house, green pines fiinge the road. 

And white clouds linger over the eaves. 

Well aware of why I had come. 

He took down his lute and touched the strings. 

The first note rendered the wailing of “The Wandering Crane”, 
The second recalled the sorrow of “The Widowed Phoenix”. 
Would that I could stay with him, 

From now till the year wastes itself to an end! 

all translated Yang Yeh-tzu 


When I was young, I had no taste for worldly afifeirs. 
And naturally I grew up to love the mountains. 

By mistake I fell into the traps of the world; 

And there I wasted thirty years. 

Imprisoned birds long for their ancient woods. 

Fish on shore long for their former waters. 

I cultivate the land in the south region. 

So, like a peasant, I return to my native fields. 

I possess no more than ten mou,^ 

And no more than eight or nine cottages. 

Birch and willows shade the eaves of my house. 

Peach and apricot grow in the courtyard. 

^ About oue-S3xtb of an Ex^lish acre. 


Far in the distance are the huts o( men. 

Above their roofs comes the faint smoke* 

Dogs bark in the deep lanes, 

Cocks crow on the tops of mulberry bushes 
Inside the house no sounds come to disturb me , 

I live alone, perfectly at leisure 

There, for a long while, I was imprisoned m a cage. 

But now once again I return to myself 


The affairs of men are absent m the country. 

No bustle of wheels m the poor, solitary lanes 
By the clear light of day doors are half-closed: 

In the empty house all worldly desires fade away 
There are times when peasants meet together, 

Wearmg rough clothes, they wander at leisure. 

And though together, never speaking a word. 

Except to give their best regards to the hemp and mulberries: 
Each day the mulberries and hemp mcrease, 

And every day my acres are enlarged 

But always I fear the coming of sleet and frost, 

When all is rumed — ^nothmg but brushwood! 


I must return. My fields and my orchards 
Are invaded by weeds 
Why should I not return? 

Since I have made my soul the slave of my body, 
Why should I wait, moaning dreadfully 
No, I shall not waste my sighs on the past, 

I shall lift my spirit towards the far future 
I have not wandered too far from the path. 

Still I know 

I am once more on the road to my home. 

Lightly, lightly, the boat glides lightly. 

My gown fills with wind and flies in the air 
I discover the road as I go forward, 

And curse the faintness of sunset and dawn. 


Ah, then, my door and my house will appear to me, 

I shall exult and run like a boy. 

The servants will press forward to greet me. 

My children will be waiting before the door. 

The three pathways are almost overgrown. 

But the pine-trees are still green, 

And the chrysanthemums will spread their blossoms, 

I take the children by the hand and enter. 

Wine IS brought to me m full bottles, 

I empty the cup and lean on the wmdow 
And joyfully contemplate my favourite branches. 

And joyfully savour the peace of my cottage. 

Sometimes I wander m my garden 
Where there is a door which is rarely open. 

I lean on my staff at my leisure 

And sometimes lift my head and look around. 

Idly, the clouds climb the valleys. 

The birds, weary of flymg, seek for their nests. 

Light thickens, but still I remam m the fields. 

Caressing with my hands a sohtary pine. 

I must return * 

I shall have no more friends to amuse me 
The world and I have broken apart. 

What have I to do with men any longer? 

I shall forget myself m the peace of my family, 

And the hours will pass, and the music of my lyre . 

And the peasants say that Spring is commg, 

And in the western fields we must seek out our ploughs. 

I shall ride out in a carnage 

And drive over the sharp hills of my estate 

I shall row a small boat mto the wilderness 

Of leaves in search of a qmet grotto. 

The trees, splendidly gleaming. 

Climb higher with the commg of Sprmg, 

And the fountains and the springs 
Steal from their caverns of rock. 

Ah, happy is life m the Sprmg, 

But my life is slowly commg to an end. 


How long shall I stay in the worlds 
Why do they not leave my heart in peace? 

Why do I torment myself so vainly? 

Shall I stay, shall I go ? ’ 

I have no love for honours, 

I have no love for riches 
Paradise is beyond all my hopes. 

And therefore m the clear daylight 
I shall walk among my fields and among my flowers, 

Singmg a little and sighmg, 

And climbing the mountains of the East 
To the accompaniment of a liquid stream, 

Chanting a few songs, 

Till the time comes when I shall be summoned away, 

Having accomplished my destiny, with no cares in the world. 





Li Shih-Ming, the Second Emperor of the Tang Djnas^^ was one of 
the most glorious figures of Chinese history He was horn in AD. £97 9 
tweny years bfore the Tang Dynas^ came into being He was still a 
young man when he ended the age-old struggle with the Turks and sealed 
the trea^ (f friendship by the sacrifice of a white horse on a bridge over 
the river Wei which separated the two armies. In 621 he was nominated 
to the post of Chif Guardian of the Empire^ and m on the 
abdication of his father, he ascended the throne, taking the title of 
Chen Kuan He was a contemporaiy of Theodosius, whose ambassador 
reached Ch'ang-an in 640. He was a great administrator, a lover of 
poetiy, handsome in youth and splendid in all the achievements of 
peace The first Christian missionaries arrived during his reign, he 
gave rfuge to Firouz, son of Yezdegard, he allowed the Mamchaeans 
and the Zoroastrians and Moslems to build temples in his county. 
The Journey to the West, which ArthurWaley has admirable trans- 
lated under the title Monkey, gives a disarming and perhaps inaccurate 
report of him. He was canonised under the name cf Tang Tai Tsung, 
^Great Ancestor of the Tang”, by which he is now better known. 



Beyond the frontiers he the hard winters and the raging winds ; 
The waters of Chiao Ho are frozen over with huge icebergs. 

On the Han Lake come the hundred layers of waves 
Over the Yin mountams he thousands of h of snow. 

The garrisons live hard, gazing out for beacon-fires 

On the highest peaks, the banners of the commander are unfurled, 

But the soldiers fold theirs: the hunt begins. 

They water their horses at the foot of the Great Wall. 

* A song which was sui^ dnnng the last years of the Han Dynasty (206 B C-A D. 221). 


Interminable the footprints of horses over endless cold sands. 
Hear on the frontier the howlmg of the north-wind. 

We entered the land of the Huns and subdued them in their 
desert strongholds. 

To the west were the natives of Chiang, who played on flutes and 
cymbals to welcome us, 

Here die Huns themselves laid down their arms and surrendered. 
The soldiers of Han returned in triumph. 

High m the air flew the banner of victory. 

A tablet was engraved with their names, for the sake of posterity 
In battle with barbarians peace was assured, 

And on the altar of Heaven we sang our victory. 

translated bj Wang Sheng-chih 




He came from a wealthy Szechuanese family ^ and spent his life up to 
the age <f IJ gambling and drinking ^ hut sudden^ changed his habits 
and set to studjing^ becoming a chin shih at the age of twen^-eighu 
Once he purchased a costly flute and went to the market-place offering 
to sing on it, but at the moment when he was about to sing^ he dashed 
It into a thousand pieces and handed round copies of his poems instead. 
He became intimate with the Empress Wu Hou, but on the death of his 
father the local magistrate threw him into prison, hoping to obtain the 
wealth which his father 1 ft behind. Chen Tzu-ang died in prison at 
the age of 46. 


I look before, and do not see the ancients. 
Looking after I do not see the coming ages. 
Only Heaven and Earth will last for ever: 
Alone I lament, and my tears fall down. 



^ 99-759 

Like Campion, he was a physician as well as a poet, but when he lived 
he was more famous as a painter “In his poetry^, said Su Tung-p'o, 
“there is painting, and in his painting poetry**. His ancestors came from 
Taiyuan in Shansi, but during his father* s Ifetime the family moved to 
Yunchi in the same province, and it was there at the age of nineteen 
that he began to write his most famous poems. 

He was made chm shih at the age of twenty-one When, in the 
fourteenth year of T*ien-pao, An Lu-shan raised the fag f rebellion, 
Wang Wei was captured and imprisoned in a monasteiy in Loyang — 
It was said that An Lu-shan wanted to see what kind of animal a poet 
was He remained in Lcyang, compelled to act as Censor, until the death 
of his captor, when he was released He was accused of being a collabora- 
tionist, and like many poets seeems to have cared little enough for 
either of the contending powers — he lived m considerable luxury and 
honour in his captivi^. He was later reappointed to high position by 
the Emperor Su Tsung, chiefy as a result of the infuential connections 
cf his brother Wang Chin, a buddhist who possessed quite fantastic 
influence at one time on the Emperor T*ai Tsung and who was later 
bamshed. He did not remain long in court. His wfe died. A settled 
melancholy sent him into the hills, where he lived quietly until he died 
at the age of six^ m a monk* s gown. 

He was a superb painter, and wrote as delicately and convincing^ 
as be painted. Like Wu Tao-tzu, the greatest of all Chinese painters, 
he would say bfore beginning to paint “I have it all in rry hearf. 
It was not necessa^for him to paint while gazing at scenery, and some 
of his most subtle evocations cf landscape were clearly written in the 
library. His poetry, which follows the almost impossibly strict form of 
chueh“chu, is very similar to the little we know of his painting — the 
moon IS adways rising, the plum-blossoms are always falling, and 
the forest is empy. He was a firm believer in Buddhism, and there is 
a Buddhist dariy in his poems which is absent in the chueh chu <f the 
later poets of the T*ang Dynasy. More than aiyone except Tao Yuan- 
ming and Tu Fu, he can evoke a whole landscape in a single line. 



The peachblossom is redder becatise ram fell overnight, 
The willow^s are greener in the morning mist: 

The fallen petals are not yet swept away by servants. 

Birds sing The guest on the hill is asleep. 


The cold mountam turns dark green. 

The autumn stream flows murmurmg on. 

Leaning on my staff beneath the wicket gate, 

In the rushmg wmd I hear the cry of the aged cicada, 


While the flute played on the edge of the water. 

At sunset I bade farewell to my husband 
For a while I gazed upon the lake, 

And there was only a white cloud rolling among green hills. 


The long ram falls on the empty forest. Smoke rises 
Over the cooking-pots where they are preparmg to feast 
the neighbours: 

With immense wmgs the heron flows on the ricefields. 

In the deep shade the yellow heron is smgmg. 


Lying alone in this dark bamboo grove, 

Playmg on my flute, contmually whistlmg. 

In this dark wood where no one comes, 

The bright moon comes to shine on me. 


You who come from the old village — 

Tell me what is happening there? 

When you left, were the chill plum-blossoms 
Flowermg beneath the white window? 



The morning ram of Wei city wets the white dxist, 

The inns are green, the willows^are in spring 
May I advise you to empty one more cup, 

For west of the Yuan-kuan hills you will find no fnend. 


There was no sight of man m the immense mountain. 
Yet human voices were contmually being heard 
The sim reflects the distant scenes mto the thick woods, 
Forming patterns on the green moss.* 


To be a stranger m a strange land; 

Whenever one feasts, one dunks of one’s brother twice 

as much as before. 

There where my brother far away is ascendmg, 

The dogwood is flowering, and a man is missed. 


Red beans grow in the south country, 

In autumn flounshing on many boughs 
I beg you gather them in great quantities. 
For I love nothing better than these.^* 


I have just seen you go down the mountain: 

I close the wicker gate in the setting sun. 

The grass will be green a^in in the coming spring, 

But '^l the wanderer ever return? 

*Tbe red beans, the seeds of ahrvs precat^nust grow wild in some parts of Hainan. One 
half of the bean is bn^t red, the other half black. 



Dismounting from my horse to drink with you, 
"Where are you goiUg?” I asked. 

You said. "Because I cannot go where I want to go, 
I shall return to the south moimtam border, 

There I shall not care what happens outside. 

The white clouds flow on for ever*’. 


Walking at leisure we watch laurel flowers fallmg 
In the silence of this night the spnng mountam is empty. 
The moon rises, the birds are startled 
As they sing occasionally near the sprmg fountain. 


White pebbles jut from the river-stream. 

Stray leaves red in the cold autumn: 

No rain is fallmg on the moimtam path, 

But my clothes are damp m the fine green air,* 

^translated by Li Fu-ning 

^ Su Tung“p*o regarded this poem as the best example to demonstrate Wang Wei*s gemus 
m painting in words instead of in colours 



For some reason few purely Chinese Buddhist poems have been preserved 
There are lines in the Lotos Essence, translated from Sanscrit, which 
possess an entirely Chinese fiavouf, as for example the description of 
the blessed • 

The flesh and hair shine, 

Even the forehead shines, 

And whitened hairs shed light. 

It is because all virtue 
Was planted long ago 
The body is immovable, 

Havmg entered into ecstasy. 

Extraordmary virtue brightly bums 
And shines with glory 

But for the most part Chinese Buddhist poetry follows the Sanscrit^ 
and though the persevering reader will fnd among the Zen patriarchs a 
curious foreshadowing of some <f the evanescent poems of Wang Wei, 
he will fnd httle <f permanent value, and much which is merely puzzling 
There exists however a curious collection of songs composed by the Southern 
School of ihe Zen Buddhists known as the School of Shen-hm According 
to tradition the songs were composed by a monk from Yung-chia in 
Chekiang called Hsuan-chueh, who was known to be alive in the year 
yi3> But whether he was the real author of thefor^-six Buddhist songs 
attributed to him is still uncertain. 

For this selection from the Yung-chia Cheng-tao-ko I am indebted 
to Dr. Walter LiehenthaVs admirable translations and commentaries 
published m Monumenta Serica, VI, 1941. 

1 S 4 


The roar of the lion is the fearless man speakmg 
When the beasts hear i\, their skulls crack open 
Hearing it, stampeding elephants lose their majestic powers. 
Only the gods and dragons rejoice when it is heard in 


He meditates when walking and when sitting. 

Silent, speaking, movmg, resting, his body is at peace. 

In the face of pointed swords he remains eternally calm ^ 
Many kalpas ago our Master met Dipamkara,^ 

But already he was the “patient sufferer” ^ 


Purify the five eyes, possess the five powers 

If once you have known truth, you faiow the unknown. 

in a mirror the body^s shape is easily discerned. 

But in vain can you grasp the moon on the water 


They walk alone, and yet they are together 
Along the road to Nirvana, the Perfect Ones 
With antique mmds, pure-hearted, high-spirited, 

With sunken cheek-bones, despised by the common people. 

^ In former times, the Buddha m the incarnation of Sumedha met the Buddha Dipamkara 
He spread his hair on the ground, that it might be used as a carpet by the Buddha. 
Dipamkara prophesied his futyre for him 

* The story of the "patient sufferer^ is told in the Vajracchedika Sutra The asceUc is sitting 
in meditation m a wood Nearby a king is himting accompamed by the ladies of his harem. 
After the hunt the kmg, tired, goes to sleep Awakened, he asks for the women, but they 
are found m the company of the meditating ascetic The kmg takes his sword and cut 
the ascetic into pieces, but the ascetic feels no resentment at all 



Wander the streams and oceans, cross mountams and 

Search for the Way, call upon Masters, desire to enter 
the Zen 

No sooner have you come to Ts^ao-hsi,i 

You will know that neither birth nor death have any 


The moon shmes on the nver, pines sigh m the wind. 
What happens in the quietness of eternal night? 

My heart is confirmed in its pure buddhahood. 

My body is clothed in dust, dew, clouds and sunset. 


An alms-bowl subdues a dragon, a stick defeats tigers. 
The two sets of gold rings sound hng-hng. 

The priest does not carry his stick to no purpose. 

It is the stick of the tathagata^ a holy relic. 


In the forest of sandalwood, only the trees grow. 
The lion runs wnld in these thickets. 

In the silence of the forests none dares oppose him. 
The birds fly away, the animals run from him. 


The baby lion was ahead of the common herd. 

When three years old, he roared tremendously: 

Though the jackals compete with the king of the law^ 

And shout for a hundred years, they exist to no purpose. 

^ In Shao-cihou, Kwangtung, where there was the monastery of Hui-neng, the sixth Zen 

*fa wmtff the King of the Law, or Dharroa. 


Let them slander me^ I remain immoved. 

Who tries to bum the sky only wearies himself, 

I drmk the words of the slanderer as though they were 

They purge me, suddenly I enter the Ineffable. 

If you find any virtue m evil words, 

Then the slanderer becomes your spintual guide. 

Let neither offence nor slander provoke hatred in you 
How otherwise can the power of divine endurance be 



701 ?-762 

We do not hnow whether he was born in Kansu or in Szechuan ^ or even 
the date his birth, or how he died. Like Chu Yuan, he clamed royal 
ancesty’—jrom the Emperor Li Kao of the state of Liang, but this too 
IS uncertain. We know that bfore he was born, his mother dreamed 
that a star had fallen into her arms and from the great white (Tai-po) 
star of Venus he derived his name There is a legend that his immediate 
ancestors were thieves and murderers who had taken rfuge in the 
frontier-districts, and since everything is possible in the life of a poet 
who lived in a continual faiiyland of the imagination, it is not improbable 
that his ancestors were equally immune to criticism. There may have 
been tribal blood in him. He was tall and powe fully built, he had 
a loud screeching voice; he ate like a tiger and boasted that he could 
dnnk 300 cups at a sitting He married at least three times, and seems 
to have been as irreverent towards women as he was to the Emperor He 
met Tu Fu, and though at least ten years older than the younger poet, 
th^ slept under the same coverlet and walked hand in hand in the sun- 
light, and the friendship between them remained long cfter they had 
separated He was a good swordsman, an excellent musician and a 
connoisseur of good wines, he was a debauchee and a drunkard and 
perhaps even a murderer, he was once sentenced to death and he was 
three times under arrest, but it is doubful whether any f these things 
meant much to him. He cared for none fhis great accomplishments, and 
amused himself by writing poems and then throwing them into a stream 
and watching them sail away. He was the spirit f freedom walking in a 
bloody land. 

It IS usual to describe him as a Taoist, but he would never have 
accepted the description Ho Chih-chang called him “a god in exile”; 
he called himself the tai-peng — the great phoenix, whose wings obscure 
the sfy like clouds. Like Chu Yuan he liked to wear a garment made 
entirely of flowers, and then, with his bright hungy tigerish ^es, his 
black hair flowing over his shoulders, his arms akimbo, he would recite 
poety delirious^, as though the gods were speaking through him, 


Like Blake^ he would speak in the most matter-oj-jact voice imaginable 
of his encounters with the angels^ and describe how the heavens opened 
to receive him ; but sometimes^ and perhaps as a result of his extra- 
ordinal^ intoxication with th^mere sights and sounds f the world, he 
would fall into pr found Jits of melancholj. “At Jfteen^, he wrote, 
“I ran fter gods and goblins”, and though he enjojed his hnf visits 
tofai^land, he was often inextricably caught up in a world where there 
was only bloodshed, avarice, corruption and despair For long periods 
he disappeared from the world, wandering through half die provinces of 
China — once he was banished to the distant south-west province of 
Yunnan, then known as Yeh-lang He seems to have liked flowers and 
water most, and in a line which echoes a famous prose essay by Tao 
Yuan-ming, he combined the two things he loved most in a single litany 

The peach-blossom follows the moving water 

The evanescence of the world tormented him, drove him to frerrsy, he 
would dam the water and make an everlasting flower of imperishable 
metal if he could, and yet he knew that the sheer beany f the world lay 
in its evanescence. He seems to have been short-sighted — the objects in 
the foreground of his poetry are brilliant^ illuminated, but the back- 
ground IS always misy and hardly discernible — and for him everything 
seems to be coloured more deeply and splendid^ than it has ever 
appeared to aiyone else except perhaps Ezekiel He had no knowledge 
of the restraints of poetiy Once he asked Tu Fu whether he was growing 
thin from the hard labour of composing poetry; he himsef composed as 
easily as a bird sings There are three things he writes about superb^ 
the grace f young women {he had a dangerous faculty of being able to 
project himsef into a young girVs mindf then there was the morning 
freshness of the world, and the vision f heaven which is like lightning 
He was born with all the talents except one — he had no means to prevent 
his dangerous facihy from overriding him. He could compose aiything. 
He could write about faiiyland, a county which he seems to have 
known well ; he could write about the court beauties, the vanished glories 
of the past, the beany f drunkenness, of his long journeys, his impas- 
sioned friendships; he wrote splendid f f dawn and flowers, and 
hardly less splendid f of night and the stars. His poetry is full of young 
girls, flowers, birds, stars, the plum-blossoms in spring and the 
cbysanthemums in autumn. All that was coloured with Ife he celebrated, 
and death never enters his poems 

His greatest virtue was that he was equal to his boasts. When he 
said “I am strong enough to meet ten thousand men”, it was no more 


than an understatement He insulted court officials whenever it pleased 
him^ and nothing delighted him more than that the Emperor should 
order the powerful eunuch Kao Li-shih to pull off his shoes when he was 
in a state of drunkenness He delighted ^n intrigue. He liked drowsing 
drunken^ in the market-place For a while he was almost ruler of the 
Empire ; the Emperor seasoned his soup for him with his own hands , and 
secretlj ordered him to compose mandates and rescripts. But he seems to 
have preferred, rather than the highest honours of the state, the diploma 
he received from a Taoist arch-priest which called him Hhe high heavenlj 
priest of the White Lake'^ Once, travelling hj river-boat between 
Tsai-hi and Nanking, he robed himsef in his palace robes of the finest 
silk, with girdle-pendants clicking and pearls shading his ^esfrom his 
mortar-like hat, and suddenljfor no reason at all he burst out into the 
wildest laughter, rolling his ^es. 

He was distantly related to Li Hua, who composed the saddest, 
though not the best, of the innumerable odes dedicated to battl fields; but 
no kinsmen could be more different Li Hua composed deliberate ^ — 
one can almost see him biting the hairs of his brush — but Li Po 
composed in a way which surprised even himsef, "/ compose verses without 
tiring, while in front of mj house carts and horses go bf*. But f he 
composed effortless^, he composed also with amazing strength. His 
strength is not so apparent in English, but Chinese scholars insist that 
his poetry has the quaky of lightning, of sudden sharp illuminations 
and an endless sudden tearing down (f veils It is true that behind the 
veils he tears down, there are other veils — there is always fairyland, a 
landscape cf an impossible flowering, but the faiy land is etched sharply 
with the dagger-strokes of his calligraply, which is supposed to have 
been as brilliantly haphazard as his poems. 

Like Milton, Tu Fu rarely mentions colours Li Po delights in them, 
runs after them, and sometimes runs them to earth. His flowers are so 
fien like %lue smoke^, his islands are so often %urmng red with flower^, 
his skies are so often dark red or yellow or blazing blue that we tire of 
them, and there comes a time when even his remorseless vitahy palls on 
jaded nerves. Near^ every poem seems to be written m the bard aystalline 
light of The Phoenix and the Turtle: 


A white dew grows on the jade stairs. 

When night comes it wets her silk shoes. 

She comes in, lets fall the crystal screen. 

And gazes through it at the autumn moon. 


The translation^ of course, is hopelessly inadequate, but we can at least 
follow the general movement of the poem What is brilliant is the swiftness 
of the action, the evocation ^ mood and the complete world enclosed 
within twen^ words of Chinese, The dew ^grows’* like ai^ flower, and 
the autumn moon brings no confort We can see the girl, but we cannot 
share her grif,for there is a crjstal screen between — and how often do 
we feel when we are reading his poems that there is a crjstal fountain 
separating him from the world, and he sees everjthing in the bnghtlj 
coloured rfracted vision of someone looking at a landscape through a 
waterfall. The brilliance is there, there are more colours than we ever 
dreamed cf, there is even more grif, but there is always the crjstal 

Terbaps the screen was necessarj There is a mjsterious poem 
To the Fisherman in which he insists on hiding his purij 

Do not shake your crown, if perfumed; 

Do not flap your skirts, if scented with orchids 
It is better to hide the chaste souTs radiance 
The world hates a thing too pure. 

There was nothing original in this the whole Empire was full of 
carfree Wandervogeln who despised the towns and took refuge on 
high cliffs or in the mountains, Tao Yuan-mmg said that his greatest 
delight was to plaj with children, Li To*s heart's desire was “to go 
rowing in a boat with rrj hair down”. He has all Shellej's delight in 
water and loneliness. He was never entire f human or at ease in the world. 
And though the storj is almost certainlj untrue, it is significant that for 
centuries men believed he died like Li Ho at the summons cf the angelic 
hosts, who suddenlj appeared to him on a moonlight night when he was 
supping in his boat. Dolphins came and stood on their tails and two 
children of immortahj came carjing in their hands banners to lead 
him the way to the celestial palaces, which he reached riding on the 
back of dolphins. But it is more probable, as Liu Hsu relates in The Old 
Book of T^ang, that he died from over-drinhng And perhaps the two 
stories are not incompatible. He was buried near the river, Li Hua 
wrote the inscription on his tomb and To Chu-i visited the grave fifty 
jears later, finding onlj a small mound in an endless plain of grass 
He died in 762, at the age cf about sixj 

jfter his death his works were collected together bj his remote 
cousin Li Yang^pin under the significant title The Thatched Roof 
Of the twenj thousand poems written in his Ifetime, hardlj a tenth 
remained, Li Yang-pm states categoricallj that nine out of ten cf the 



poems written during the eight years following the rebellion <f An 
Lu-shan 755) are lost. These were idle poems written in the full 

maturiy of his genius, and those which we can least do without Li ?o 
had not arranged his poems, and seems to have taken no interest in their 
publication It was not until 1080 that the canon of l,8oo poems was 
collected together by Sung Ming-chiu, 

He was not perhaps the greatest of all Chinese poets, but he remains 
the most celebrated, the most gifted, the most incorrigibly poetic. 
Like Holderlin, he seems to have been almost a god ^He in his power”, 
wrote Li Yang-pmg, ^may be said to rival Nature, the creator and 
tran former”. It was no more than the truth. 


Do you not see the waters of the Yellow River flowing down 
from the sky? 

The swift stream pours into the sea and never returns. 

Do you not see the bright mirror in the high hall lamenting the 
silver hair, 

Which m the morning was pure silk but in the evening has turned 
to snow 

You, who are sated with life, come drink to the dregs. 

Never let the gold cup lie empty by moonlight. 

Since I am heaven-bom, I must use my talents. 

Though I spend ten thousand pieces of gold, they will be returned 
to me. 

Kill the sheep! slay the ox* make merry! 

In a single round Til drmk three hundred cups * 

Come, Master Ch^in, 

Come, Tan Chiu, 

I offer you wine, don^t refuse it. 

I will sing you a song. 

Pray, listen attentively. 

The bells and the drums and the dainties are not to be prized. 

I desire only to be drunk for ever, and not to wake up. 

The ancient saints and wiseacres have long ago been forgotten: 
Only the great drinkers immortalised their fame. 

Once Prince Ch"en gave a feast in Ping-yueh temple, 

Gave ten thousand coins for a wine-bucket, everyone feastmg 


I am the host. Can I say I am lacking m money? 

We will buy some wine and we "11 drink together. 

Though It cost my horse o( five colours 

Or my furs worth ten thousand gold, 

ril send the boy to barter them for excellent wme: 

We"ll drown the sorrows of a thousand generations together. 


If you were to ask me why I dwell among green moimtains, 

I shall laugh silently ; my soul is serene 
The peach-blossom follows the movmg water, 

There is another heaven and earth beyond the world of men 


Proudly, the sleek horseman tramples the fallen flowers. 
Withdanglmg crop he raps on the chariot of five-coloured clouds.^ 
The beautiful woman within smiles as she lifts the jewelled curtain, 
“There is my humble home”, she says, pointmg to a red house 


You have a yellow horse, 

Mme is white. 

The colours are not the same. 

But our hearts are united 

^ No one appears to know what a “cbanot of five-coloured clouds” is The commentatora 
refer the reader to the Taoist monk Chiu Yu-tzu who was summoned by Hsi Wang Mu, 
the Empress of the West, on the fifth day of the eighth moon, and ascended to heaven m 
a five-coloured cloud chanot 

® The commentators refer to a song of the Han Dynasty 

You have a yellow horse, 

Mine IS white 

The horses do not go together 
Mine IS the better one 


Together we wandered through the outskirts, 

Two young blades of Loyang stepping side by side. 
Our long jewelled swords dazzle^ lu the sun, 
Scarlet were our high head-dresses 
Each wore furs worth a thousand pieces of gold. 
Each were the guests of five orders of princes.^ 

You, the fierce tiger, have fallen into the trap. 

The brave man submits to bitter fate, 

But when you, my comrade, are m such distress, 
What avails it if I alone am happy? 


They met m the red dust ^ 

He raised his yellow-gold crop in salutation, 
“There are ten thousand houses 
among the drooping willows: 

O lady, where are you living?” 


She is gathermg lotos-seed m the river of Yueh. 
While singmg, she sees a stranger and turns around, 
Then she smiles and hides among the lotos-leaves, 
Pretendmg to be overcome by shyness 

1 Refers to the five orders of nobility founded in the Chou Dynasty Duke (Kung)^ Marquis 
(Hou)f Count (Po), Viscount (Tzu) and Baron (Nan)* 

* Red dust means the world The commentators refer to an earlier song, called “West 

Red dust from the four comers of the world, 

Hidden in mist, minglmg together 

I do not know why they quote these lines, which entirely fail to illustrate the poem, 
and suspect that the Chinese passion for commentanes and footnotes must be as great 
as our own 



My hair could hardly cov^r my forehead, 

I was pluckmg flowers near the door ; 

Then you came riding a bamboo horse 
And threw green plums near my bed. 

A long while we lived together at Chang-kan village, 

And we were innocent, without passion or desire. 

At fourteen I became your wife 
I was so modest that I dared not smile 
I lowered my head into a dark comer 

Though you called me a thousand times, I would not look at you. 

At fifteen I composed my eyebrows: 

With you I was willmg to be dust and ashes. 

For your sake I would die on the pillar 

Having you, why should I mount the watchmg tower?® 

At sixteen, you went on a journey. 

The waves on Chu-tang gorged were crushed agamst Yen-yu rock. 
These rapids are not passable m rainy May — 

Only the monkeys lamentmg against the sky! 

Before the door, where you went away, 

Each footprint is overgrown with green moss — 

So deep it is, none can sweep it away. 

The first autumn wind added the fallmg leaves. 

Then in September the yellow butterflies 

Hovering in pairs over the grass in the west courtyard: 

Seeing them, my heart aches. 

Must I wait sorrowfully, seeing my red cheeks fadmg? 

1 Chang-kan, a village near Nanking 

2 At some time m the sixth century B C a young scholar named Wei Sheng arranged to 
meet a girl under a bndge m Ch’ang-an He was delayed, the nver was rising, the girl 
remamed and was drowned, holding on to a pillar 

® A mound near the village from which wives looked for their absent husbands 
^ A dangerous gorge m eastern Szechuan Yen-yu is the name of a great rock which stands 
in the middle of the nver, which floods in May 


Some day, when you leave Three Pa district,^ 
Please write home a letter beforehand, 

For though I cannot walk a long dist^ce, 

I will come to meet you in Long Wind Sands 


I was a yoimg girl hidden deep m her chamber; 

I did not know die dust and smoke of the world. 

Because I have married a man of Chang-kan, 

Daily I go to the sands and look at the winds 

In May the south wind blows. 

I think of you sailmg down from Pa-ling. 

In September the west wind whirls. 

I dream of you coursmg down the Yangtse river. 

You came, you went away, and I shall always sorrow. 

We were often parted, and rarely met 
When did you arrive at Hsiang-tan? 

In wind and storm my dream follows you. 

Last night the wmd raged funously, 

And broke the trees on the river-bank. 

The nver flooded over, the waters were boundless and dark. 
Where were you then, O my beloved? 

Your wife mounts the saddle of a flying cloud, 

Desirmg only to meet you east of the Orchid Island. 

Then we shall be happy as mandarm ducks among green reeds. 
Or as the sporting halcyons embroidered on a silk screen. 

There was a time — ^I was just fifteen — 

My face was as red as a peach flower 
Why should I be a river-merchant^s wife. 

Thinking always of water and wind‘d 

* Three Pa is a place in Szechuan, where her husband was trading 



Clean is the autumn wmd, 

Splendid the autumn'^moon 
The blown leaves are heaped and scattered, 
The ice-cold raven starts from its roost. 
Dreaming of you — ^when shall I see you again? 
On this night sorrow fills my heart. 


The bright moon soars over the Mountain of Heaven, 
Glidmg over an ocean of clouds, 

A shrill wind screaming ten thousand li away. 

And a sound of whistling from Yu-men pass. 

The imperial army marches down White Mound Road. 
The Tartars search the bays of the Blue Sea. 

The warriors look back to their distant homes: 

Never yet has one been seen to return 
Tonight, on the high towers she is waiting 
There is only sorrow and unending grieving 


I see the moonlight shming on my couch. 

Can it be that frost has fallen? 

I lift my head and watch the mountain moon, 

Then my head droops m meditation of earth 


The shming moon bums the blue water 
On the south lake he is gathenng white lilies. 
These lotoses are whispering tenderly. 
Sorrowfully the boatman sighs 



Last year we fought by the springs of Sankan river, 

This year we fight on the Tsung-ho foads, 

We have dipped our weapons in the waves of Chiao-chi lake, 
We have pastured our horses in the snows of the TTen mountains, 
We have gone into battle ten thousand h away 
Our three armies are utterly exhausted. 

The Huns think of slaughter as a kind of ploughing. 

From of old they have seen only white bones in the yellow sands 
Where the Chhn Emperors built walls against the Hun barbarians. 
The sons of Han bum beacon fires. 

The beacons bum without ceasing 
There is no end to war* 

On the field of battle men grapple each other and die. 
The horses of the fallen utter lament to heaven. 

Ravens and kites peck men^s guts, 

And flying away, hang them on the boughs of dead trees 
So men are smeared on the desert grass. 

And the generals return empty-handed 
Know that weapons of war are utterly evil — 

The virtuous man uses them only when he must. 


The waters of Mirror Lake are white like the moon, 
This girl m the stream of Yeh glitters like snow. 

Her new dress dapples the waves. 

An endless bright shining . . 



Whence comes the sound of the jade flute, flying through the 

Commg with the spring wind, hovering over Loyang? 

On a night like this to hear the song of “Willow-breaking*^ — 
What else can I do but think bitterly of my home? 


The jade faces of the girls on Yueh Stream, 
Their dusky brows, their red skirts, 

Each weanng a pair of golden spiked sandals — 
O, their feet are white like frost. 


At dawn amid coloured clouds I left White Emperor City: 

A thousand miles to Chiang-ling — ^I was there in a day’ 
Chattering monkeys on the cliffs, no end to their bawlmg. 

So the light boat shpped past the ten thousand mountains. 

Li Po was about to sail in his boat, 

When suddenly he heard soimds of stamping and singing on shore : 

The Peach Flower Lake is a thousand fathoms deep 

But it cannot compare with Wang Lim's love, bidding farewell. 

white Emperor City lies in Szechuan, Chiang-ling m Hopei. When he says he reached 
there in a day, Li Po is of course romancing. 



Like a crescent of autumn shines th^ moon of Omei ; 

The pale light floods the Pmg-chiang river. 

Tonight I shall leave Chmg-chi for the Three Gorges — 
Then down to Yochow, thmking of you whom I cannot see! 


A boat of sandalwood and oars of magnolia’ 

At both ends sit “flutes of jade and pipes of gold” ^ 

Pretty singing girls, countless flagons of sweet wine. 

0 let me follow the waves, wherever they take me. 

1 am like the fairy who rode away on a yellow crane. 

Aimlessly I wander, following the white gulls 

The songs of Chu-ping^ still shine like the sun and moon: 

Of the palaces and towers of the Ch'u kmgs no trace is left on 
the mountains. 

With a single stroke of my pen I shake the five mountains 
The poem finished, I laugh — ^my delight is vaster than the oceans. 
If riches and fame could last for ever, 

The Hm River would flow north-westward to its source 


The wind waves the lotoses m the scented palace by the water: 
In the Ku-su Tower, the King of Wu is carousing ® 

Hsi-shih, flushed with wme, dances coy and unresisting 

By the east window, laughing, she leans on a couch of white jade. 

^ I e. the musicians are sitting at the prow and stem 
* Chu-pmg IS another name of Chu Yuan, who served m the state of Ch’u 
® Hsi-sbib, the most beautiful of all Chinese consorts, was discovered washing her clothes 
by me side of a stream by K’u-chien, tbe Kmg of Yueh, who presented her to the King 
of Wu. ^ 



The king of Yueh, K'u-chien, conquered the men of Wu. 

These loyal servitors rode tome, clad in brocade. 

The court maidens were flowers fillmg the spring palace, 

Where today only partridges are flymg. 

In deserted gardens, wild terraces, the willows are green: 

Once again they must sing “Gathering Chestnuts” because sprmg 
IS here 

Now there is only the moon shining on the west river, 

Which shone once on the fair girl in the palace of Wu.^ 


Old friend, bidding farewell to Yellow^ Crane Tower from the 

In march, among smokmg flowers, making your way to Yangchow, 
From the tower I watched your solitary sail disappear among blue 

There was only the immense river runnmg to the edge of Heaven * 


The green moimtain lies beyond the north wall of the city, 
Where the white water winds m the east — 

Here we part. 

The solitary sail will attempt a flight of a thousand ii, 

The flowing clouds are the dreams of a wandermg son, 

The setting sun, the affection of an old friend 
So you go, wavmg your hands — 

Only the bark of the deer. 

^ King Fu-chai of Wu mamed Hsi-shih, who had been given to him as a present by 
K’u-chien, kmg of Yueh Twenty years later K*u-chien led his army across the nver 
and made the kingdom of Wu a big fishpond Li Po is here celebrating the vanished 

2 Meng Hao-jan (689-740) was a fnend of Li Po and Wang Wei, and a considerable poet 
m his own right, ranking perhaps immediately after Li Po and Tu Fu He was a native of 
Hupeh, and is said to have been responsible for a famous interview between Wang Wei 
and the emperor The Yellow Crane tower overlooks the Yangtse at Wu-chang it is here 
that a dead man of Shuh, travelling on the back of the drane, stopped to rest 



She has rolled up the beaded screen, 

And sits there deep in thought, her crescent eyebrows frowning, 
I see in the corner of her eyes the tear stains still green, 

I do not know why she is envious 


The glory of clouds in her raiment, the flowers shine like her 

The sprmg wind sweeps the balustrade, the dew lies heavy 
You will not see her on the Mountain of Many Jewels, 

You will see her only in moonlight in the Palace of Crystal.^ 


She is a flowering peony, the dewdrops restraining the perfume. 
Shall the Kmg be ashamed of his dreams of Cloud and Rain?^ 
Pray, who in the palace of Han could be likened to her on earth, 
Save Lady Flymg Swallow when newly dressed in her lovelmess? 


The queen of flowers and the flowery queen rejoice together. 
For the Emperor always deigns to watch over them with a smile. 
Vanquished the endless longmgs of love on the winds of Spring, 
While she leans against the balustrade north of the Chen-hsiang 

1 The first of three songs, set to music by Li Kuei>nien and played on a jade fiute by the 
emperor, which were written m honour of the beauty of Yang Kuei-fei during the royal 
feast m the Pavilion of Aloes 

* A et^hetmsm for sexual intercourse, 



When the fair one was here, the house was adorned with 
flowers ; 

When the fair one is gone', only an empty couch remains 
On the couch the embroidered quilt is rolled up and no longer 

For three years smce that day a perfume haunts the place. 

The perfume strays for ever, 

But she is lost for ever. 

In deep anguish comes autumn, the yellow leaves fall. 
White dewdrops wet the green glittering mosses. 


Here it is night* I stay at the Summit Temple. 
Here I can touch the stars with my hand. 

I dare not speak aloud m the silence 

For fear of disturbing the dwellers of Heaven. 


The monk of Szechuan on the heights of Mount Omei 
Comes down westward, under his arms a Lu-yi lute.^ 

He plays for me, fingers brushmg the strings 

And the sound is like the murmuring pine-trees m ravines. 

So with the ^Flowmg Spring’' song he recreates my soul. 

For a long while the last echoes weave m the tolling of the 

In this entrancement the blue hills dim and darken. 

Heavy are the autumn clouds sailing heavenward. 

translated bj Chiang Chaoyi 

* Literally a green silk lute. 


White sun and bright moon 
Run their course day and night.;. 

How could we humble mortals 
Live on leisurely in the world ? 

I learn that m the sea 

There is the fairy Peng-Iai hill 

Where angels often climb over 

To pick the green leaves of the jade tree, 

Which once bemg eaten, makes their heads ever dark. 
And they live in eternal youth 
ril go there, Til go there 
To live and die in fairyland. 

translated bj Nee Wen Yei 


Holding a jug of wme among the flowers, 

And drmking alone, not a soul keepmg me company, 

I raise my cup and mvite the moon to drmk with me. 

And together with my shadow we are three 

But the moon does not know the joy of drinking, 

And my shadow only follows me about. 

Nevertheless I shall have them as my companions, 

For one should enjoy life at such a time 
The moon loiters as I sing my songs, 

My shadow looks confused as I dance. 

I drink with them when I am awake 
And part with them when I am drunk. 

Henceforward may we always be feasting, 

And may we meet m the Cloudy River of Heaven.^ 

translated bj Tsang Bmg-ching 

*H.e. the Milky Way 



The lovely Lo-fii in the land of Chin 
Gathers mulberry leaves by the clear water; 
Her white hands rest on the green boughs 
The white sun shmes on her red face. 

“The silk-worms are hungry, I must run away 
Your five horses should tarry here no more”. 


On Mirror Lake for three hundred Ji, 

Gaily, gaily the lilies are blossommg. 

In the fifth month Hsi-shih gathers them, 

Multitudes are watching from the bank: 

The boat does not wait the commg of the moon, 

But slowly returns to the palace of the King of Yueh. 


A moon rises over Ch^ang-an, 

From ten thousand doors comes the sound of pounding 

The autumn wind blows sadly. 

My thoughts mmgle with yours at the Jade Pass. 

When will the Tartars be put to flight? 

When will my beloved be able to return from the 

^ There is a famous Han Dynasty Song of Lo-fu A more exact title for these four 
poems IS Midnight Songs for the Seasons, a title which was already old in the Han Dynasty 
for four line poems of five syllables Usually the songs celebrated the griefs of unmarried 

The plum blossom has fallen and withered, 

The catkins are blown by the wind , 

My tender years are like the spring, 

And no man wants to live with me 

The midnight songs — Tsu Yeh K*o — owe their name, not to late mghts, but to a maid 
knovm as “Midnight” 



Tomorrow the courier leaves for the ifirontier: 

All night she spends mendmg his coat 
Bravely her fingers ply the cold fieedle, 

But the scissors are even colder. 

Then at last it is over, and the coat is given away* 
How many days will it take to reach Lm-tao ^ 


Our life m the world is only a great dream. 

Why should I toil my life away? 

Let me be drunk all day, 

Let me lie at the foot of the house-gate 
When I wake up, I bhnk at the garden trees 
A lonely bird is smgmg amid the flowers. 

I demand of the bird what season it is: 

He answers . “The sprmg wmd makes the mango-bird sing”. 

Moved by his song, I sigh my heart away 

And once more pour myself wme 

So I sing wildly till the bright moon shines 

The song over, all my senses are numb. 


If Heaven has no love for wme, 

There would be no Wme Star m Heaven; 

If earth had no love for wine, 

There would be no city called Wme Sprmgs. 

Since Heaven and Earth love wme, 

I can love wme without shaming Heaven. 

They say that clear wine is a samt, 

Thick wine follows the way of the sage. 

I have drunk deep of samt and sage: 

What need then to study the spirits and fairies? 
With three cups I penetrate the Great Tao. 

Take a whole jugful — ^I and the world are one. 

Such things as I have dreamed in wine 
Shall never be told to the sober. 



The good wine of Lanling smells of appleseed* 

Come, fill to the brim my jade bowl with glowmg amber. 
If only mine host can make me drunk, 

I shall not worry if there is a strange coxmtry. 


Mount Wu lies south-east of Lushan, 

Chiselled against the blue sky, a gold hybiscus flower. 
I twist the colours of Nine River Town mto a knot. 
Here I shall build my nest amid clouds and pines. 


Once in the Phoenix Tower the phoenix made her nest, 

Now the phoenix has gone, the tower empty, only the river 
flowmg on 

There were flowers in the garden of Wu, but the paths are now 
hidden in deep grass 

Here the great lords of Chm are buned m grave-mounds. 

Half of these three mountains stretched into the blue sky 
The nver^s two streams wander round the White Heron Island. 
Floatmg clouds for ever are shading the rays of the sun. 

And I am grief-stricken because I cannot see Chang-an. 


Separated from you, I lament in Yeh-lang beyond the clouds. 

To this moonlit house news seldom comes. 

I see the wild geese go north m the sprmg, 

Now they turn south — ^no letter from Yuchangl 

1 Chinlmg IS the modem Nanhmg, once the capital of Wu, Chin and many other states 
and dynasties 

* Li Po was banished to perpetual exile in Yeh-lang, roughly corresponding to modem 
Yunnan, m 758, but durmg the next year an amnesty was declared and the poet returned 
to Nanking 



On the Mountain of Boiled Rice I met Tu Fu, 
Wearing a bamboo hat m thejiot midday, 
Pray, how is it that you have "grown so thin? 
Is It because you suffer from poetry? 


With wine I did not notice the approach of evenmg. 
All my clothes were covered in fallen petals 
Drunken I arose, and paced the stream by moonlight 
I saw few people or returning birds. 


I slept in spring not conscious of the dawn, 
But heard the gay birds chattermg all around 
I remember, there was a storm at night. 

Pray how many blossoms have fallen down? 


Before the Peak of Returning Joy the sand was like 

Outside the surrendered city the moon was like frost. 

I do not know who blew the horns at night. 

But all night long the boys looked towards their homes. 

I like my friend Meng, 

Whose art and fame are known to all xmder Heaven, 
Red-cheeked, he threw away carriage and cap. 
White-haired, he hes among the pines and the clouds. 
Like the ancients, he can get drunk on moonlight; 
Preferrmg flowers, he has no desire to serve Emperors. 
How can one climb so high a moxmtain? 

I can only breathe my admiration for his purity. 



The bravo of Chao wears a cap with a Tartar cord, 

His scimitar from Wu shines like the ice and snow. 

His silver saddle glitters on a pure white horse, 

He comes like the wind or like a shooting star. 

At every ten steps he kills a man; 

And goes ten thousand li without stopping 
The deed done, he shakes his garment and departs. 

Who knows his name or whither he goes? 

If he has time, he goes to drink with Hsmg-lmg, 
Unbuckles his sword and lays it across his knee 
The prince does not disdain to share meat with Chou-hai 
Or to offer a goblet of wme to Hou Ymg ^ 

Three cups is a sign of bond unbroken. 

His oath is heavier than the Five Mountains. 

When his ears are hot and his eyes bum. 

His spirit ventures forth like a rainbow. 

Holding a hammer, he saved the kingdom of Chao, 

The mere sound of his name was like shaking thunder. 

For a thousand autumns three strong men 

Have lived in the hearts of the people of Tai-liang.* 

Sweet-scented be the bones of these dead heroes ; 

May the old scholar be put to shame, 

Who bent over his books near the window 
With white hair compilmg the Tai-hsuan Ching,^ 

1 Hou Ymg was a recluse of Wei state m the third centuiy B C Offered a high position 
by Prmce Hsm-lmg, at the age of seventy, he refused and recommended instead Chou 
Hai, who defeated the invaders 

* The capital of the State of Wei, of which Pnnce Hsm-lmg was the ruler 

* Yang Hsiung B C -A D i8) compiled the Tai-hman Chinny a commentaiy on the 
1 Chng He wrote volummously on music, poetry, philology, acutipimcture, received 
high appomtments under Wang Mang and is said to have stuied by the wmdow for so 
long that men had forgotten whether there was any other part to him except his white 
head He was particularly despised by Li Po, who attacks him in several other poems 





The seafarers say there is an eastern land, 

Lost in the misty sea-waves and hard to reach. 

The Yueh-landers say it is called Tien-mu. 

Perhaps it can be seen among the glimmering rainbows and 

This land of the sky stretches over leagues of heaven, 

It rises over Five Mountams, towers over Scarlet Battlement, 
The Tien-tai is forty-eight thousand feet high,^ 

Staggering and leanmg towards the south-east 
Dreaming of these lands of Wu and Yueh, 

One moonlit night I flew across the mirror lake. 

The moon m the lake reflects my shadow 
And follows me to the town of Yenchi, 

Where stands the palace of Pnnce Hsieh.® 

The green waters are quivermg, the monkeys crying. 
Putting on the sandals of the Prmce, 

I climb up the green cloud ladder. 

Half-way, I see the sun rising from the sea 
And m the sky I hear heaven's cock. 

A thousand precipices and ten thousand turnings, the way 
not sure: 

Flowers chokmg the path, I lean against the rock, I swoon. 
A bear roars, there are groaning dragons, roaring waters, 
I tremble m the thick forest — O, the overhanging rocks fall 
Blue, blue are the clouds threatening ram, 

And the waters pour down and smoke pours from them. 

1 The commentators say that the Tien-mu mountain is 4,000 li square, and stands 
700,000 li to the east. From a jade stone sprmg water tasting like wine flows The island 
is full of immortals who resemble the people of Wu (Kiangsu) 

^ Mountains In Chekiang and Kiangsu 

* Hsieh An (A.D 320—388), the model of the refined scholar and ruler At his last illT»*sg 
he dreamed of a cock, a presage of death, which is mentioned m the poem When his 
nephew and brother won a resounding victory, he showed no emotion but contmued 
to jday tl» game of TWti-ch*i 


Peal of thunder ^ 

Mountains splitting asunder! 

The stone gates of Heaven opening wide, 

And there between the hovering ^tes 
Depth upon depth of blueness, no end visible, 

Sun and moon shining together from their gold palaces ! 

In rainbow clothes, charioteering on the wind, 

The lords of the clouds descend like spun silk, 

Tigers beat on lyres, the phoenixes surround the chariots, 
I was as one bewildered and ifilled with terror. 

Suddenly there is an end to dreams, 

I lift myself on my elbow and look around: 

Wakmg, I see my bed and pillow. 

Gone IS the world of cloud-dust^ 

The joys of the world do not last, 

Of old all things have flown with the east-flowing river. 

I leave you and go — ^when shall I return? 

Let the white roe pasture among the green rocks. 

Let me go and visit the delectable moimtam. 

How can I humble myself to serve the mighty ones? 

To do so would make my heart small. 


He was a devoted friend of Li ?o and Tu Fu, who recommended him to 
the Emperor Su Tsung^ who gave him the high position cf Censor and 
later the Governorship of Chia^chou. He wrote essays as well as poetry, 
and experimented with forms of poetry He was younger than Tu Fu, 
who called him affectionately “younger brother”, and in a famous but 
untranslatable poem Tu Fu describes a journey with him on the slopes 
of Mei Mountain They were continually exchanging friendly poems 
with each other, but rarely are the poems more than occasional. He 
was a native of Ho-nei, and became chin shih at some time between 
742 and 756 



A coat of squirrel fur, many dancing girls, 

Wines from the palace and silks belonging to the Black 

But the old general on the east front fights keenly. 
Though he was seventy he will fight to the death. 


The wind on Tien Shan slashes the autumn like a knife 
South of the city their horses shiver, manes shrmking. 
The old general rattles the dice. 

And wins the coat of fur belongmg to the Black Khan. 


Behold, the horsemen are gallopmg along the Szechuan road 
beside the snow-white sea, 

Sand stretches like prairie grass, so vast, and the yellowness meets 
the sky. 


Here m Lun-tai, in late autumn, the wind howls all mght. 

A river-bed of broken stones as large as kettle-drums 
Is thrown up by the wind, and everywhere the air is full of stones. 

The Huns pasture their fat horses on the yellow grass 
Westward among the gold hills, smoke and dust are flymg 
The Han general collects his forces agamst the western enemy. 
All mght he has not removed his coat of mail 
All night the army marches, weapons touchmg 
And the wind^s muzzle is a knife slashmg the sky 

The manes of the horses are icicles, strmgs of cash turned to ice. 
Five-petal flowers among the smoke-clouds of sweat. 

In the tent the general dips his pen in ice. 

Ah, if the Huns heard of it would not their courage faiP 
We — ^we know that they have no love for our short swords 
We — ^we know that the army awaits tidings of victory. 

all translated bj Wang Sheng-chih 


The north wind sweeps over the land, twisting and breakmg off 
the hoary grass 

The barbarian weather brings the fluttering snow of early August. 
As though overnight a small wmd came to make thousands of 
pear-trees blossom 

These snow-flakes slip through pearl curtains and wet the screens, 
The fox fur no longer warm and the silk coverlet too thm, 
Benumbled with cold, the general can hardly draw his hom-bow. 
But the border guards must still wear their freezing armour, 
And icy pillars a thousand feet high pile high in the north ocean. 
While overcast clouds hang curdled for ten thousand h 
Amid the boommg of pipes and the squeaking of flutes, 

The orderlies drmk a toast m honour of the returning guest 
The evenmg snow whirls thick on the gates of the camp, 

And the wmd fails to move the frozen red flag. 

Then, at the north gate of Lun-tai, I bid you farewell, 

You who will go through the drifts of snow on Tien Shan. 

I lost sight of you when you turned beyond the cliff, 

Leaving only the footprints of your horse behind. 



It is such a long way home to the east,^ and my sleeves 
Tremble: I am heavy with years and wet with tears. 

Seemg you on horseback in this wilderness, without pen or paper, 
I beg you to tell my people at home: I am safe and sound 


They say there is a monk on Tai-pei mountains, 

Floating like scent, three hundred feet beneath the sky. 

Once with his scriptures he hid himself in the middle peak. 

And he has scarcely been seen by those who hear the ringing 

His metal stick once parted two tigers in a death struggle: 

Now it lies against the window Under his bed a jar contains a 

His clothes were made of weeds and leaves , his ears 
Touch his shoulders, and his brow hangs over his face. 

No one knows his age Only the green pines planted 
By him cannot be ringed aroxmd by ten arms. 

His mind is as clear as a flowmg river. 

His person, like clouds, knows neither right nor wrong 

Once an old man of Shang Shan met him. 

But I can find no way through these untrodden heights. 

Still in the mountains lives 3iis imknown monk 
The townsmen do not know him. they look m vam to the meltmg 
blue sky. 

all translated bj Yuan Chia-hua 



He IS the greatest Chinese poet without exception, and jet he is extra- 
ordinarily d:^cult to translate. No one has jet been able to conv^ in 
arj European language the passion he commands, or the tremendous 
shll of his poetrj. There is an immense calm, and an immense irorj in 
his work, and a terrible jmpathj. He has little, or no, self-pij Like 
Virgil, he looks at the earth calmlj and dispassionate^, having seen 
all evils, having shared all disasters, a man who is not unlike other 
men except in the range of his sensibilij. One of his children starved 
to death. He was always wandering through wars. He held high positions, 
and ran away from them, he was lojal to the emperor, jet he knew that 
the empire was being wrecked on the policies of the emperor, he was 
irascible and ill-tempered, he was splendid in anger, and still more 
splendid in tenderness; but when he writes, he writes like the gods — 
calmlj, almost eficientlj, extracting from everything he contemplates 
the essence of its quivering Ife, 

He came from generations of scholars. One of his ancestors, Tu 
Yuan-kai, wrote a famous commentary on the Tso Chuan. His grand- 
father, Yu Yen-yang, took part in the early days of the Vang dynasj 
in the movement to rform poet^, insisting upon afar stricter anti- 
thetical versification ^an bfore. He was six years old when he fast 
wrote poetry, and at fourteen was rivalling the minor poets of the time. 
He was brought up strict^, and attempted to ob^ the Corfucian canons 
to the end of his Ife, but he was not a complete Corfucian, He bad little 
use for fantay — though it appears here and there in his works, and 
notably in a surprising passage in The Joixmey to the North, and 
seems to have considered poetry as an art, which must be fought for. 
Unlike Li To, who wrote as a bird sings, be seems to have composed with 

At the age f twenj he went wandering • he was hardly ever to cease 
wandering as long as be lived. He failed in the imperial examinations, 
but the failure did not embitter him. It was the rebellion f An Lu-shan 
and the invasions of the Nan-chao (the baf-Tbibetan tribesmen from 
Yunnan who attacked from without almost at the moment when rebellion 


was being fomented within) that drove him to desperation ^ and made 
him write his greatest poetij. These are not Virgihan cfterthoughts^ 
portraits of wars when the wars were over Th^ were written bj a 
man who felt the full force of the sufper^ng around him^ and shared 
it to a degree denied to Li Po, who would celebrate a dfeat as easilj 
as he celebrated a victorj When the Nan-chao invaded Szechuan^ 
conscription was imposed bj the emperor The results were disastrous 
old men^ and even women^ were hauled ojf to the wars. There had been 
frontier wars from time everlasting ^ but this time the wars were iifnitelj 
more reaf and conscription infinitely more terrible. Through all the 
failures of the reigning djnas^, Tu Fu retained his faith in the empire 
and in the common people who formed it 

He was twen^five before he reached the capital, then known as 
Ch^ang-an, which means ^‘eternal peace”, jf ter failing in the examination, 
he wandered over the provinces of Shantung, Shansi and Honan. He 
met Li To and Kao Shih, but produced no works of importance until he 
was thirty'five, and then the quali^ of his maturilj was immediatelj 
visible. For tenjearshe wrote prodigiously He returned to Ch^ang-an, 
received a minor official post, hardly suifficient to keep him alive He 
celebrated the splendour of the court, the gaie^ and beauty of the 
consort Yang Kweifei, but he knew the disastrous effect of the yranmcal 
abuses of power by her brother, the prime minister, Yang Kuo-chung 

Behind the red-painted doors wine and meat are stinking. 

On the wild roads lie corpses of people frozen to death 
A hair breadth divides wealth and utter poverty. 

This strange contrast fills me with unappeasable anguish. 

He enjoyed the ceremonials of the court, the great triangular banners 
with dragons embroidered on them fiapping leisure^ m the wind, the 
girdle-pendants clicking on the grass as the officials knelt bfore the 
emperor, the smoke of the incense rising from the bronze t^mgs and all 
the elaborate ritual of court custom, but he knew the cruelties of the 
recruiting (fficers and the shoddiness upon which the dynas^ was based. 
He lived in two worlds There was still die world if his childhood, of 
the silver-crested phoenix and the Lady Kung-sun who danced Hhe dance 
of die two-edged sword” which captivated his childhood. He wrote three 
poems which pleased the emperor, but he was alrea^ for^ years old 
and had no great achievements to his name. His worship f the dynosy 
remained, though corruption was increasing until nearly everyone in 
the empire was conscious that it could hardfy survive much longer: 


I shall transport the Lord, my Emperor, to the heights of 
the ideal rulers Yao and Shun, 

I will cause the winds of instruction to reform and purify 
the customs of the land 

But It was easier said than done^ and when the rebellion did break out 
at last, in December, ys4., he was as helpless as the rest. Worse 
still, there was famine. His child died. He was captured by the rebels, 
and it was ten months bfore he could make his way to the new imperial 
capital and pay his respects to the new emperor Once again he received 
only a minor post. Later he was appointed Censor of the Lft, a high 
position but an onerous one, which he exchanged as soon as possible for 
a sinecure in the east. He seems to have been always wandering during 
the years of war, but at last in yS9 he retired from official life and 
settled down in Chengtu, where he stayed for fve years It was the 
longest time since his childhood that he had remained m a single place 
He lived partly on the bouny of the governor of the ciy He was 
already a classic, and seems to have been conscious of his importance 
there are legends of his quarrels with the governor, and his intransigent 
arrogance, but the legends suggest no more than that Tu Fu was conscious 
of his fame and was determined to suffer no longer He had been an old 
man for a very long time. He was tired More than any other man he 
had celebrated the whole gloy and decadence of the Tang empire, and 
his political powers were still immeasurable But the tone is quieter, 
he speaks of simple things, and there is less sign of suffering Once he 
had made a living as a wood-cutter, now he lived in a small cottage 
outside Chengtu, watering the flowers, drinking tea, desultorily 
reading the buddhist classics, without ary cares in the world But the 
governor died, there were revolts in Chengtu and once more he went on 
his wanderings For five years he wandered over the province, old and 
sick, weary <f the interminable roads, the memory of the past dominating 
everything else. Yet even then, in these last days of his twilight, there is 
a swift tempo in his poetjy, a grace and unaccustomed lightness, as of a 
man who is about to lay down his burden for ever In the last two years 
there is a real decline of poetic power, but it is hardly noticeable — 
the poet's precision remains. No one knows exactly how he died, but it 
IS recorded that he had been out alone on a boat which disappeared in 
the smoke of a storm, took rfuge in an abandoned temple and was 
half dead (f hunger and cold when he was found and brought back to 
the town of Lung-yung, Thy feasted him, to honour his return, he drank 
copious^, and^enextmorning hewasfounddeadmbed Hewasfifty-mne, 


Ifom could compare Tu Fu with anyone — though he is incomparable 
— It would be Baudelairey with his strange suggestive images derived 
from pover^ and spiritual exhaustion, has Baudelaire* s power of 
evoking the real terrors^ the long nights^ the cruelties^ the starvations^ 
the miseries of the common people , there are lines <f Baudelaire which 
read like translations f Tu Fu 

Et les vagues terreurs de ces affreuses nuits 

Qui compnme le coeur comme un papier qu^on froisse . . . 

Mon coeur est un palais fl^tri par la cohue . . . 

Amsi dans le forSt ou mon esprit s"6xile, 

Un vieux souvenir sonne k plein souffle du cor . . . 

Like Baudelaire^ he was untameable and spoke (f himsef as 

The seagull who plays on the white waves, 

And flies to heaven, superb and tameless . . 

And like Baudelaire, too, he was possessed of an extraordinaij 
tenderness and sensitivi^, especiallj towards suffering, while at the same 
time and almost in the same breath he could evoke a sense of majes^ 
and digm^ and regal splendour. There were two worlds, and jet th^ 
were not incompatible: there was splendour in poverj and in death, 
and there was misej enough m the rojal palaces during the wars. 
He described a princess. ^Her digm^ so flaming that it burnt jour 
finger**, hut almost at the same time he wrote. 

Do not let your tears fall. 

Pick them up, drop by drop, ifrom the floor 
Even if all your tears are drained away, 

Neither Heaven nor Earth can help you. 

The bald literal translation in English gives nothing (f the favour <f 
the original, whose sadness seems to reach out to the extremities of all 
endurable siffenng. Where he is supreme is in the combination of a 
technical masterj of verse with the deepest pathos He exhausted the pos- 
sible variation of ihe *^eight4in^ poem. In his earliest days he mutated 
the poetj of his granffather, the fiowej and euphemistic poems (f the 
earliest experiments <f the T*ang djnas^, but as his own sufferings 


increased, we become conscious a sombre power and a terrible 
expanding awareness In this sense he is universal. No poet b^ore or 
after him in Chinese histoij has been so conscious of die human role 
which can be played bj a pdet, and no one else would have dared to 
sum up all human histoi^ as he saw it in six words so charged with 
meaning that th^ burst out of the page with the effect cf an explosion • 

Blue IS the smoke of war, white the bones of men. 

He remains to the end the eternal wanderer, complaining against 
the cold, the poor profits of earth, the sorrows of death, the ghastly 
(but splendid) rituals of empire He caiedfor nothing except the digni^ 
and freedom cf men to live their own lives as th^ choose, and would 
have prf erred to have been remembered, if remembered at all, as a 
man of simple faith in simple things, a poet and one who had wandered 
over nearlj all the provinces cf his beloved China, 



West of the pinnacled red clouds, 

The sun put two feet on the plain, 
When the birds clamoured at the gate 
And I arrived as a stranger home 
Amazed to see me here, my wife 
And children could not stop their tears. 
My wandermgs through a stormy world 
I had survived by accident. 

Our neighbours gathered over the wall 
Were moved to marvel and to sigh. 
Dawn found our candles lit and us 
Eyeing each other as m dreams. 


At risk of life to keep New Year, 
Homecoming gives me little joy. 

The children will not leave my knees 


For fear I shouid be gone again. 
Reseeking the remembered cool, 

I skirt the trees beside the pond, 

But in the wmd hard- whistling 
A thousand cares prey on the mind. 
Knowing the grain been harvested, 
I dare presume the still has run 
Enough for us to pour and drmk 
Comfort for the declining sun 


The cocks were screammg all at once. 
Fighting as the guests approached. 

Not till we had shooed them up the trees, 
Did we hear knocking at the gate. 
Patriarchs four or five had come 
To ask about my wanderings, 

Each with his gift to me of wine 
That varied m its quality 
They apologised for its thinness by 
The want of men in the paddy fields, 

For smce the war dragged on and on. 
Their boys were all at the eastern front 
“May I smg for you old gentlemen 
Whose kindness shames my indigence?” 
My singmg ended, eyeing the sky 
I sighed, and all at the table wept. 


Where hills and valleys crowd toward Chmgmen 
Still prides a village on bearing the Bright Queen 
Who left the Palace as the desert ^s thrall — 

Her mark this moimd at sunset alone green 
From portraits recogmse the face of Spring? 

Her pendants tinkle: she returns unseen 
By moonlight, who taught mandolins to plam 
These thousand years m Tartar of her wrong. 



This fugitive between the Earth and Sky, 

From the North-easft storm-tossed to the South-west, 
Time has left stranded in Three Valleys where 
Exotic costumes mixed with ours suggest 
Alliance with Huns whose loyalty suspect 
Adds cause for mourning by the enforced guest. 

Most desolate was Yu Hsin^s life who sang 
Towards its end of northern valleys best 


Twilight comes down the mountain to 
The villa next the dyke By caves 
On high the light clouds pitch their tents. 

The moon turns over in the waves 
In silence left by flight of cranes 
The wolves at feast howl while the fears 
Of wartime prevent sleep from men 
Powerless to adjust the spheres. 


The bitter pinecone may be eaten. 

The mist on high give nourishment. 

The whole world takes to go-and-getting; 
My way alone is difficult: 

My oven is cold as the well at morning, 
And the bed wants warmth from coverlets ; 
My purse ashamed to be found empty 
Still keeps on hand a single coin. 



Claimed by our patriarchs to h&ve survived 
Tyro centuries, Ais quince tree by the river was 
The reason that I cleared the weeds and built 
My house behind to hear May cicadas 

The south-east wind arrived to shake the earth, 
Overturn rivers, drive rocks and clouds uphill 
Still the qumce grappled with the thunderstorm, 
And if uprooted, was it Heaven ^s will? 

This old tree that my nature loved upheld 
Above the river a green canopy ; 

Its shade forbidding, cold as frost and snow, 

Its leafy music stayed the passer-by. 

Tiger and dragon overborne are cast 
To nettles; tears but conjure memories. 

Where should I go to meditate new rhymes^ 
Henceforth my cottage must be colourless 


See you not Heng Mountam towering over Hunan hills, 
From Its summit the vermeil phoenix murmuring lean 
Over to gaze, forever seeking his comrades? 

His wings are folded, his mouth is closed, but his mind is 

With pity for all the birds that are caught in nets, 

From which even the tmy oriole hardly can escape. 

He would dispense to them ants and fruit of bamboo, 
Provoking hawk and vulture to scream their threats 



Where life andf*death try friendships, here 
I made a friend — ^beyond belief — 

Whom petty duties shuttle back 
And forth like swallows to my grief 
From hence Han River bends due north, 
While the Tor stays m southern loam. 
When flowers at Five Tombs fill your eyes, 
Send tidings of the Spring at home. 


Deficient m the polite studies, 

My love for hills and woods enduring, 

I nod my cap half off my head^ 

Back bare to sunlight through bamboo 
And gather wind-dropped pmecones up, 
And bring m beehives dunng wmter, 
And where dispersed red-and-green 
Emit a sensuous sweetness linger 


Before you praise Sprmg’s advent note 
What capers the mad wind may cut: 

To cast the flowers to the waves 
And overturn the fishmg boat 

all translated bj Hsieh Wen Tung 



From pure white silk winds and jFrost arise 
Look at the eagle painted with so great cunning, 

His neck shoots out, he meditates on catching a hare 
With the sidelong glance of some wild barbarian 
Those gleaming silk loops and gold rmgs can be grasped m 
the hand: 

The roof-beams are so clear-drawn one could enter therein. 
O marvellous, if the eagle could strike down a bird, 

On the grass a precipitation of feathers and blood ^ 


The city has fallen only the hills and rivers remam 
In Spring the streets were green with grass and trees. 
Sorrowmg over the times, the flowers are weepmg. 

The birds startled my heart m fear of departing 
The beacon fires were burning for three months, 

A letter from home was worth ten thousand pieces of gold. 
I scratch the scant hairs on my white head, 

And vainly attempt to secure them with a hairpin. 


On this great day I must dnnk and eat; yet still I am frozen to 

Like a stripped bough, I lean against the table and wear a feathered 

Gliding on this Spring river is like having a place in heaven. 

As if in a mist flowers appear to my old eyes. 

Languidly the butterflies frolic over the parted curtains. 

One by one the tame wild-fowl slip down the quick stream. 

The white clouds and green mountains are ten thousand h away. 
In vain I look to the nortib in the hope of seemg Ch^ang-an* 



la my late age I am compelled to live a stolen life. 

When I came home, my* spirits were drooping. 

My darlmg children do not go away from my knees ; 
They are ^raid I may run away agam. 

I remember in ancient times how I liked the shade, 

And often walked beneath the trees near the pool. 
While the north wind screamed and chattered. 

Now I embrace the past, burning with a thousand cares, 
Consoled by the thought of the fat rice m harvest, 

And the pure wine drippmg through the wine-press. 
Now that there is enough wine to drmk, 

I can console the remaining days of my life. 


My home is surrounded by a clear stream, 

In the long summer days there is all the silence of a 

Save where the swallows flit among the beams 
Or where the wild seagull plays fearless on a stream. 

My wife rules the squares for a game of chess. ^ 

My young son hammers a fish-hook out of wire. 

I, who am ill so often, want only to plant flowers. 

My humble body desires nothing more. 

^ Squares ruled on paper Chinese chess is not the formal game it is with us it can be 
played at any time on ruled or folded paper 



0 Chu-tzu^ Spring returns, and are still separated. 

A million golden orioles are singing in this warm weather 
We are apart, and yet I am startled by the change of season. 
Who is as clever as you^ 

1 know only the mountam streams and the hilly roads, 

The grass gateway, the village surrounded by ancient trees 
Dreaming of you m my grief I think only of sleep. 

There is the porch, bending towards the earth, I feel the 

hot sun on my back. 


The Kimming Pool is the great glory of Han. 

The banners of Wu Ti are there before my eyes: 

By moonlight the Weaving Maid stands idle before her 
silk spools, 

An autumn wind rattles the stone scales of a sea-dragon. 

Among heaving waves smk the dark clouds of the kumi 

In the cold dew pink petals fall from the lotos pods. 

The Sword Pass reaches the sky along the Bird Road. 

An old fisherman wandermg through all the lakes and rivers 
of earth.i 


My brother was a year older than I. 

He was wise, and I was only a fool. 

He despised vanity, 

I was foil of enw. 

^ Durmg the time of the Han Emperor Wu Ti, an expedition was sent to Yunnan to 
conquer the barbarian tribes The expedition felled in a sea-battle on Kunmmg Lake 
Thereupon the Emperor decided to construct near Ch*ang-an a large lake on w&ch his 
troops could be trained, m the centre of the lake lay the stone dragon The Sword Pass 
and Bird Road refer to mountains m Szechuan connected with the flight of the Emperor 
Ming Huang, the fisherman is probably Tu Bu himself. 


Chen-tzu was muddy in the autumn ram, 

The horse was waiting for dawn, the first cockcrow, 

The gate of the lord^s l^ouse was still bolted 
When I arrived, 

My brother awoke from sound sleep 

The cries of boys and girls were never unpleasmg, 

But clothes and food were always necessary. 

The year I arrived in Chen-tzu 

The whole town was filled with the fragrance of wine and 

Upstairs we drank and downstairs we slept, 

We sang each other's poems 
And made calls, 

And did not trouble to put on our caps and girdles. 

The dust on our faces was never washed away, 

So he lived in utter happmess, 

Laughmg and crying like a child. 

Falling asleep at twilight. 

Who was the man whispermg in a soft voice? 

translated bj Nee Wen-jei 


In the eighth moon of autumn, the wind howling viciously, 
Three layers of thatch were whirled away from my roof. 

The thatch flying over the nver sprinkled the embankment 
And some of it was entangled m the tree-tops, 

And some whirled away and sank in the marshlands 
A swarm of small boys from South Village laughed at me because 
I am old and feeble: 

They know they can rob me even in my face 
What effrontery! Stealing my thatch, taking it to the bamboo 

Witih parched lips and tongue I screamed at them — ^it was no use — 
And so I came back sighmg to my old place. 

Then the wind fell and the clou<k were mky black. 

The autumn slsy a web of darkness, stretchmg towards the dusk. 
And my old cotton quilt was as cold as iron, 

And my darling son tossed m his sleep, bare feet teanng through 
the blanket, 


And the rain dripped through the roof, and there was no dry- 
place on the bed 

Like strings of wax the rain fell, unending. 

Amid all diese disasters of war, I have^had little sleep or rest 
When will this long night of drizzle come to an end? 

Now I dream of an immense mansion, tens of thousands of rooms, 
Where all the cold creatures can take shelter, their faces alight, 
Not moved by the wind or the ram, a mansion as solid as a 
mountam — 

Alas, when shall I see such a majestic house? 

If I could see this, even though my poor house were tom down, 
Even though I were frozen to death I would be content. ^ 


Where the streams wind and the wdnd is always sighmg. 

Hoary grey mice scurry among abandoned roof-tiles 
No one knows the name of the pnnce who once owned this house, 
Standing there, even now, under the hanging cliffs 
In dark rooms ghost-green fires are shming ^ 

Beside the ancient battered road a melancholy stream flows 

Then, from the flutes of the forest, come a thousand voices, 

The colours of autumn are fresh in the wmd and rain 
Though the virgins have all gone their way to the yellow graves, 
Why is it that paintings still hang on the walls? 

Charioteers of gold chariots — ^all have gone. 

There remains of these ancient days only the stone horses. 
Sorrow comes and sits on the spreading grass 
All the while singmg, I am overwhelmed with lamentation 
Among these lanes of life disappearing m the distance, 

Who can make himself eternal^ 

^ I have added “If I could see this” The last two lines form one Ime in the ongmal Nearly 
all Chinese know this poem by heart m it Tu Fu expressed jSnally and perfectly the mam 
impulse of his life — a desperate and unavailing sympathy for all suffering thmgs It is 
important to realise that this was somethmg new in Chinese poetry, just as Virgil^s 
insistence on suffenng was somethmg new m Latm poetry Virgil with his pietas is at 
tunes extraordinarily similar to Tu Fu with his contmual loyalty to the throne and delight 
m the purely Confucian virtues 

* In Chinese there are ordy five words. Ymjang hm ch'in buo — dark room ghost green 
fire. I know very few comparable hnes which have such power of evocation 



Chariots rumble and roll,4iorses whinney and neigh, 

Men are marching with bows and arrows at their hips 
Their parents and wives hurry to bid farewell, 

Raising clouds of dust over Hsien-yang Bridge 

They pull on the soldiers" clothes, stamp their feet and cry out. 

The sound of their crying is heard in the clouds 

Some passers-by speak to the soldiers, 

They shake their heads dumbly and say 

“Since the age of fifteen we have defended the northern rivers 

Till we are forty we shall serve on the western front 

We leave our homes as youths and return as grey-haired men. 

Along the frontier there flows the sea of our blood 

The King hungers for territory — ^therefore we fight,” 

“Have you not heard, sir, 

How through the two hundred countries east of the Tai-yeng 

Through thousands of villages and tens of thousands of hamlets 
Thoms and nettles run wild 

Sturdy peasant women swing the hoe and dnve the plough. 

But neither m the east nor west is anything raised or sovm 
The soldiers of Ch"ang will fight to the end, 

But they cannot be slam like dogs or like hens” 

“O sir, It is kind of you to ask me, 

But how dare we express our resentment? 

Wmter has come and the year is passmg away; 

The war on the western passes is still gomg on 
The magistrates are pressing us to pay oin: taxes. 

But where shall we get the money? 

If only I had known the fate m store for boys, 

I would have had my children all girls, 

For girls may be married to the neighbours 
But boys are bom only to be cut down and buned beneath the 


"Do you not see, sir, 

The long dead ancient bones near the Blue Sea^ bleached by the 

And now the lament of those who have just died 
Mingles with the voices of those who died long ago, 

And darkness falls, and the ram, and the ghostly whimpering of 


We were often separated 

Like the Dipper and the Morning Star. 

What night is tonight? 

We are together m the candlelight. 

How long does youth last? 

Now we are all grey-haired. 

Half of our friends are dead, 

And both of us were surprised when we met. 

Who would know that after twenty years 
I would call upon you in your hall? 

You were not married when we last parted, 

And now you have sons and daughters, 

Who come courteously to greet their father's friend, 
And ask me where I come from 

While we are thus greeting each other. 

Your sons and daughters begin to prepare the wme. 
They gather the spring spmach on this ramy night. 

And prepare for Ae feast with new-made ale. 

You said. It is a heavenly chance that we meet. 

With a single breath we drank ten pots of wine, 

I am not drunk, even though I have drunk all this wine. 
I commend you for your courteous friendship. 
Tomorrow there wdl be mountams between us, 

Nor you nor I knows what will come, 

'The Kokoxior. 



The wind keen, the sky^.high, the gibbons wailing, 

Blue islands, white sand and sea-birds flying. 

And everywhere the leaves falling. 

Then the irpmeasurable great river in torrent. 

Ten thousand h from home, m such an autumn, 

Wasted by sickness and years, alone, climbmg the heights. 
Sorrows and gnefs and sufferings have given me new grey 

Utterly cast down, I have just drunk a glass of wine. 


The good ram knows when to fall, 

Commg m this sprmg to help the seeds, 

Choosmg to fall by night witih a friendly wind, 

Silently moistenmg the whole earth 

Over this silent wilderness the clouds are dark 

The only light shmes from the nver-boat. 

Tomorrow everything will be red and wet, 

And all Chengtu will be covered with blossoming flowers. 


Mountams and nvers lie in the opening sun. 
Spring winds freshen the flowers and herbs 
Swallows are flying to fill their nests with mud. 
Doves spread themselves drowsily in hot sand. 

The blue xiver reflects the white birds. 

On the green mountains red flowers are bummg 
Silently I watch the procession of Spring. 

Then I wdll return to my beloved home. 



In the morning we enter the barracks at the East Gate. 
In the evening we are sentries at Ho Yang Bridge. 

The setting sun shines on our immense banners 
The horses neigh, a wind rustles the grass. 

Tens of thousands of tents are spread on the sand 
Soldiers beckon to one another, whispering* 

Bright is the moon shining in the sky. 

Hard is disciplme, silent is the night 
Mournful horns are sighing, sighing. 

Even the knights are mournful, no longer proud 
“May we ask who the great general is ?” 

“Surely he is the famous Ho Piao Yao” 


The country is still at war; no safety yet 
Old as I am, I cannot retire and rest 
My sons and grandsons all died at the front 
What good IS it to me to remam on earth alone? 

I throw away my stick and go out of doors. 

My heart aches, my spirit is dumbfoxmded. 

Fortunately my teeth are all sound — 

But I am afraid my bones cannot stand it. 

Do not worry — ^I am wearing my uniform, 

I bow to the oflScer, I bid him farewell 

My old wife lies on the roadside weepmg, 

Her summer clothes pierced through by the wmter wind. 
Do I really know that we shall not meet again? 

And yet I am afraid that she will catch cold. 

I go on my way, I know I shall never return. 

Yet she tells me: “Keep well, my love, keep well”* 

They say the citadel at Ti-men is formidable, 

The ferry at Han-hsien is difficult to cross ; 

We lost the battle of Nu, but not the next one 
There are still months to live, though I shall die. 


Death is there, before every mortal bemg, 

And has very little to do with health or age. 

I remember the happy days of my youth and middle age: 
I sigh and meditate deeply for a while. 

The whole world is in confusion of war; 

The bale fire flares over the whole earth 

Corpses are piling on the grass, and the smell is terrible 

Blood runs like water, reddening the river and the plain. 

There is no place safe on the earth. 

How can I wander and not hesitate? 

I must make up my mmd without any pangs 
To leave my pleasant home for ever. 


Cool perfume of bamboo pervades my room, 

Wild moonlight fills the whole courtyard. 

Drop by drop falls the crystal dew 

One by one the moving stars appear 

The fleetmg glow-worms sparlde in dark corners, 

The waterfowl on the nver bank call to one another , 
Everything in the world follows the path of war — 

I sit on my bed, meditatmg through the long night. 

translated bj Nee Wen Yei 


Now faintly the fallmg sim 

Shines on my traveller's robes 

As I move onward, so does the scenery change • 

Suddenly I feel as though xmder another sky. 

I meet fresh people 

I do not know when I shall see my native home. 

The Great River flows east. 

As endlessly as are a wanderer^s days. 

Beautiful buildings fill the whole city; 

The woods are dark in this late wtoter. 

Noisily stands the famous city. 

Full of the soimd of flutes and reeds. 

Marvellous, but I am still a stranger here. 

Therefore I turn and look at the far mountains, 

In the evening all birds return to their homes 
When shall I return to the centre of Chma? 

The moon is not very high; 

All the stars are shining as in a contest. 

O, from the ancient days always there have been travellers. 
So why should I grieve^ 


It IS suddenly known that we have captured Chi-peh: 
When I first heard it, I shed tears on my clothes 
I stare on my wife's face, and do not know where my 
sorrow is. 

Then I gather up my poems and books m a wild pleasure. 
We shall smg and drink wme. 

We shall sing and return home together. 

As soon as we have passed Wuchia and Pachia, 

We shall return through Shanyang to Loyang! 


The drum of war keeps all men apart. 

Melancholy in autumn to hear the goose screaming at the 

Tonight I see how the dew is silver; 

I remember that the moon is brightest in my village. 

My brothers are scattered to the four comers of the earth, 
And I do not know whether they are dead or hving 
Letters have often jmscarried, who will receive them 
In this clash of war? 


translated bj Cbu Chun-I 


When the sun set, I came to the village of Shi-kao, 

At night the recruiting officer came to round up the men. 
An old man took fright and escaped over a wall 
The old woman went forward and asked to be arrested — 
How terribly the officer howled at her! 

Then I heard the old woman saymg through tears: 

"My three sons have joined the camp at Yeh, 

One of them sent me a letter saymg. 

‘Two of my brothers have died in the wars, 

And the living one thinks he has not much longer to live". 
O, the dead, they go on their journey 
There are no more children in this house. 

Except a grandson who is still suckling 
Even his mother cannot go with you — 

She has not a whole skirt to go m. 

Though I am old, and have little strength, 

I beg you to let me go with you. 

I will be some use — ^I can prepare food, 

I can cook nee and prepare soldiers" meals”. 

The night was dead, the sounds of talking ceased. 

I seemed to hear sobbmg and lamentations. 

The next morning I continued on my way, 

And said farewell to the old man of the house. 

translated bj Chu Chun-l 


At clear dawn I comb my white hairs, 

A taoist priest from Tuan Tu temple comes to call on me. 
Gathermg up my hair, I call my son to invite him into the room, 
In his hand holding a painting of green pines for a screen. 


Mysterious, silent and misty the fir-forest on the screen ; 

For a moment, leaning on the balustrade, I see the red and blue 
colours disappearing 

Dark cliffs uphold the frosted stems of the pines, 

Hanging canopies of pine-needles, leaning back, like writhing 

O, but from my earliest youth I have admired ancient thmgs: 
Gazing at this paintmg I am absorbed m contemplating divme 

Already I know that the pamtmg will always be dear to the celestial 

And now all the more I reverence the accomplishments of the 
artistes heart 

Under the pmes are old men, with the same head-cloths and shoes. 
They sit together like the old hermits of Mount Shang 
Contemplating ancient times I smg the song of the “Purple 

The trials of the present time come with a sorrowing wind. 

translated hj ?u Hsiang-ching 


The flowers are hidden as the shade of twilight emerges, 

Birds fly over the sky, twittering to their nests. 

Over hundreds of homes move the stars in their courses 
On the heaven of Heaven the moon leans m brightness 
Sleepless now, I seem to hear the gold key stirrmg m the lock. 
Early tomorrow I shall offer a memorial to the Emperor 
Many times I ask how the night is passing. 

Po, the unrivalled poet. 

Who soars alone into the kingdom of imagmation, 

Yours IS the delicacy of Yin, 

Yours also Pao's rare freshness. 

North of Wei River spring comes through the trees 
Meanwhile you wander beneath the sunset clouds of Chiang-tung 
When shall we buy a cask of wme once more 
And argue minutely on versification? 



It IS a long while since I have seen you, Li Po. 

A pity that you have feigned madness — 

The whole world Would have you die, 

But my heart dotes on your gifted soul, 

For the thousand poems of your nimble wit, 

For the wine-cup balm of such a wanderer 
Go to your old place of studying — ^Mount Kuang.i 
Come back, O white-headed one’ It is time’ 


When the cold wind visits you from the comers of the earth — 
How are you, my beloved, what are you dreaming on? 

When will the wild geese fly with your letter here? 

The autumn rivers and lakes deepen and bring you my thoughts. 
The god of poetry hates those whom fortune smiles upon. 

The devil bursts mto laughter when real men stand close to him. 
The world is a desert’ If only we could throw poems mto the 
Milo river 

And speak with the great soul who was sacrificed to loyalty and 



No one walks when the guardian drum sounds, 

The cry of the wild geese marks autumn on the jfrontier 
Now at night the dewdrops twinkle with a starry whiteness, 

Yet how much brighter shmes the moon on my home’ 

My brothers are separated and wanderers m the land. 

And there is nowhere where I can ask whether they have survived 
or are dead. 

A letter takes so long upon the way: 

O, but I know there is much more than war in this country. 

^ Where they fir$t met 
® Chu Yuan. 





Autumn, in die second year of the Sovereign Lord, 

On the first day of the eighth intercalary moon, 

I, Tu Fu, propose to journey to the north 

In the hope of being able to call on my wife and family. 

At this time of danger and anxiety 

There are few days of leisure for officers and common people. 

I am overcome vsath shame at the favours granted to me alone. 
An edict permits my return to my “thistles and weeds”. 

So kneeling and biddmg farewell to the throne, 

For a long while I remam disconsolate and sad 
Though I lack the ability of a good Censor, 

Yet I am afraid my Lord will neglect his duties 
Verily my Lord has come to rule over a new age: 

The complex strands will be planned with deliberation 
The rebellion of the East barbarians is not yet put down, 

I, the humble Tu Fu, am filled with the gravest anger. 
Shedding tears, reluctant to part from the exiled city, 

I follow the road, sunk in deep reverie. 

The whole nation has suffered such terrible wounds — 

When will this sorrow and anxiety end? 


Interminable are the pathways between the paddy-fields, 

Smoke from the coolong fires is rarely seen. 

Occasionally I meet wounded soldiers, 

Spilling out their blood, sobbing, moaning. 

I turn my head towards Feng Hsiang 

Banners and pennants shme and disappear in the evenmg sky 
I cliinb wave after wave of ice-cold hills. 

I pause and water my horse at wayside pools. 

The land of T'in now lies deep in the valley. 

The Ching river runs through it, shining. 

Fierce tigers bar my way: 

When they roar, the black precipice cracks. 

Autumn chrysanthemiims bend low their heads, 

Rocks bear the scars of ancient cartwheels* 


My spirits rise at the sight of blue clouds 

Yet this secluded landscape is still pleasing 

Multitudes of minute delicate hill-haws 

Grow like a net entangled with acorns and chestnuts, 

Some red like cinnebar ore, 

Some black like drops of lacquer. 

Heaven's rain and dew nourish them, 

Sweet and bitter alike they put forth fruit 
Dreaming of a distant Peach-blossom land,i 
Always I dende the senselessness of my wayward life. 


From hump-backed paths I gaze on the temple of Fu , 
Valleys and precipices appear and disappear m turn. 

Already my path has reached the water's edge 
My servmg man is still among the trees 
The homed owl hoots amid yellow mulberries, 

The fieldmice run from their scattered holes. 

In the depths of night we cross a battlefield, 

A cold moon shines on white bones. 

I ponder the fate of a myriad soldiers speedily defeated 
In days gone by on the fields of Tung-kuan, 

When half the people of the provmce of Ch'ing 
Fell dead, were wounded, were injured and slam! 


I, too, have fallen in the dust of the Barbarians, 

After I escaped my hair was streaked with white 
Nearly a whole year passed before I returned home. 

There was my i^e clothed in a hundred patches. 

And our sobbmg grief sounded like soughing pines, 

And our lonely tears echoed like sad fountams. 

That child whom I have adored from my youth. 

Whose complexion was whiter than snow — 

She saw her father turn back his face and whimper, 

And there were no stockings on her dirty, greasy feet 
In front of the bed stood two little girls. 

Covered m patches, their clothes hardly reaching their knees 

1 He IS thinking of tao Yuan-tmng^s Peach-^Bkssom Fomtam* 


From some embroidered sea their mother had cut the waves, i 
But the ancient embroidery was stitched confusedly 
There was Tien Hu* and the Purple Phoenix 
All turned upside-down on their short clothes. 

I, an old man, filled with resentment 

For some days lay on my bed, vomiting, purging 

Fortunately I have clothes somewhere m my baggage, 

And perhaps this will save them from the shivering cold. 

I take powder and black stone* from their wrappings. 

Quilts and coverlets are soon folded and arranged. 

Once again my poor wife's face is glowmg. 

And the silly girls comb their own hair, 
hmtating their mother m everythmg — 

So carelessly they paint their faces in the mommg. 

Absorbed m daubmg themselves with rouge and white lead, 
Scattering on their faces such widely-spaced eyebrows. 

Well, I have returned alive to play with my children, 

And it is as though I had already forgotten himger and thirst 
They ask questions, crowd round me, cling to my beard 
How can I be angry or dnve them away?^ 

Meditating on my gnef among the rebels, 

I cheerfully listen to all their chattenng 

So, newly returned, for a while I comfort my feelings, 

But one thing remains — ^how shall I make a living? 


The Sovereign Lord is still enveloped m the dust of war. 

When will the training of the soldiers cease? 

I gaze at Heaven: soon there will be alterations, 

Soon there will be an end to all these evil vapours 
A cold wind comes from the north-west. 

Hardily the Uighurs will come to our rescue. 

Their King obeying our command, offering help willingly. 
Their custom is to master the cavalry and break through , 

If they can send five thousand men. 

They can drive ten thousand horses before them. 

The youngest among them are most especially honoured 

^ I e the waves on the embroidered dress had been cut o£F to clothe the children. 

* Tien Hu is the god of the sea, with the face of a man and the body of a tiger. 

® For eyebrows 

^ Literally to make a sound like “ha** at them, 


All men under heaven praise their great ardour, 

And all such soldiers are as soaring falcons, 

Who rise more swiftly than any arrow 
The imperial policy hesitantly welcomes them. 

But now the courtiers strongly oppose them^ 


The two rivers I and Lo will easily be retaken, 

The West Capital is still more easily regamed, 

When the time comes the imperial army will go deeper, 

The sharp edge of our Reserves might perhaps accompany them. 
So they will open a way mto Ch^mg and Hsu,* 

And wheel round to reach the foot of Mount Heng and Mount ChT . 
The autumn Heaven pours dovm dew and frost. 

The True Spirit has the power of killmg 

The turn of the year brings calamity on the Hu barbarians: 

The moon has risen which determines their destiny. 

And their fate cannot be delayed much longer 
Certainly the imperial government is not destined to end, 


I recall now that at the begmnmg of our retreat,* 

All things were different from those m ancient times 
Vile courtiers at the end were executed by process of law, 

All those concerned in crimes were swept away 
We have not heard that at the decline of Hsia and Ym,^ 

The Emperors themselves ordered the deaths of Mei and Tan 
In Chou and Han a new order was accomplished. 

The Emperors Hsuan and Kuang® were assuredly shining and wise. 
The great commander Ch^en* was valorous mdeed, 

Who with his crescent halberd stirred the loyalty of the pepple. 
Without him the people would certainly have failed. 

But now the country is saved 

^ 1 e the Emperor desired to employ the Uighurs to safeguard the throne, but the court 
fection opposed him 

® Two provinces m what is now Shantung 

® Literally jackals and lynxes, but the words in Chinese are customanly used to describe 
the terrors of a retreat 

^ Both the Hsia (220^-1766 B C ) and the Shang-Ym (1766-1122 B C ) dynasties failed 
as a result of the mtemperance of their longs 

® The Emperow Hsuan of the Chou dynasty and Kuang of Han were noton ously benevolent. 
* Chen Huan-li, the great general of T'ang 



O, lonely is the audience hall of the palace, 

Sorrowful is the Gate of the White Beast, 

Men in the capital seek the Kingfisher Glory,i 
Breath of good-fortune falls on the gold-pillared gateway. 
Already the imperial sepulchres demonstrate their divme mfluence 
The ceremomes of sweepmg and sprinkling^ have not been omitted , 
Supreme are the augunes of T^ai Tsung,® 

The Empire is firmly established and reaches the skies ! 

translated bj Pu Chang-hsing 

^ The imperial chanot. 

* Refers to the tendmg of the imperial graves* 

* The second and greatest of the T’ang Emperors (r# 627-645)* 




Like Wang Wei^ he was born in Taiyuan in Shansi, and spent most ^his 
pover^-stncken childhood in Honan, He was so precocious that he 
claimed later that at the age of seven he knew a considerable number of 
characters after having them pointed out to him only once by his nurse 
He graduated as chin-chih at the age of seventeen, which even in those 
days of iifant prodigies seems to have been remarkable, and thereafter he 
entered upon an ojfaal career, becoming a member of the Hanlin 
College and rising to high rank under the Emperor Tsien Tsung. But 
more important to his poetiy was the friendship he made early in life 
with Yuan Chen, with whom his name is inseparably connected. Yuan 
Chen was seven years younger, a poet whose verses were more often 
quoted at court than To Chu-i*s,for To delighted from the beginning in 
making his verses as simple as possible. Both rose to high rank, both 
were regarded as among the greatest poets of their time, but though 
th^ admired and even loved each other, th^ were often separated, and 
so much f their poetry is concerned with their grif at separation. 
For the Chinese until recently this grif was deeper than any other grief' 
death comes as inevitably as birth and marriage, but there is a still 
greater inevitabili^ in the constant separations f court officials from 
one another, since no official was allowed to serve for long in the same 
district So the poetry of the Vang Dynas^ is filled with the complaints 
of court officials, who lament their fleeting glimpses of their friends. 
The friendship f To Chu-ifor Yuan Chen ran deeper than most, and 
throws a melancholy over his poetry from the very beginning. And th^ 
were strangely different. Yuan Chen was elegant, he possessed relations 
at court, and it is significant that he obtained the post (f secreta^ in 
the Imperial Banqueting Chamber, To Chu-i, more reserved, more 
Coxfucian, more deeply imbued with conceptions <f morahy, possessing 
a fundamental dislike for taoism and a still more fundamental dislike 
for court displays seems to have admired Yuan Chen more deeply 
because th^ were so dissirralar. Yuan was a braggart and a hero, with 
something of Li To^s temper. Once, when he was staying at an inn, 
he rfused to leave when a court-official arrived and was struck across 


theJacefoT his impertinence Vo Chu-i would have l^t with good grace 
He was humble in his jouth, and once he complained that he possessed 
no shll in the accomplishments of calligraphy, painting, chess or 
gambling “which bring men together m a communi^ of pleasure”. 
Sad, silent and solitary, he gazed on life with urf ailing good-humour, 
as disinterested as Corfucius in spirits and demon powers He writes 
with something (f Robert Frost* s passion for exactness, and he is easily 
the easiest of all Chinese poets to translate into English 
He IS not dull, but be sometimes verges on dullness He occupied a 
succession of high posts, and was occasionally banished — it was 
comparatively easy to be banished in those days. On the accession of the 
Emperor Mu Tsung, in 821, he was made Governor of Hangchow, 
where he built one of the great embankments of the West Lake still 
known as Vo*s embankment, a lake which was further embellished by 
Su Tung-p*o two hundred and six^ years later In 829 he became 
Governor of Honan, and finally in 841 became V resident cf the Board 
of War, He died in 846, having compiled a complete edition of his 
works and presented them to deserving libraries and leaving a testament 
asking that he should not be buried in the family tomb, but beside the 
body of his favourite monk. 

He is famous chiefly for “The Everlasting Wrong”, which gives a grandi- 
loquent and not always historical^ accurate account of the death cf 
Yang Kueifei at Ma-wei, but he prf erred his poems in which some 
didactic element appears He writes nearly always in a minor key, as 
of an old man recording a spiritual voyage Significantly (and ironically) 
his tzu or s^le-name was *^Joyful Heaven”, but he is more often known 
as V*o Hsiang-san, or V*o Scented Mountain, after the mountain near 
Lqyang, where he retired during one of his longer periods of banishment, 
where he gathered round him eight others of a similar temperament 
who became known as the Nine Ancients of Hsiang-san, Yuan Chen had 
died. He was himsef ften ill, and one of his children had died his 
only rfuge lay in his poetry, in his daughter Golden Bells who composed 
charming verses at the age of ten, and m memories cf his friends He 
enjoyed his fame with the passionate devotion to fame cf a lonely man. 
He was proud that his verses were sung by plough-boys and peasants, 
as well as by the Emperor and the men cf the court. A certain Captain 
Kao Hsia-yu was courting a dancing-girl. “You must not think I am an 
ordinajy danang girl”, she said, “1 can recite Master Vo* s ^The Ever- 
lasting Wrong* ”, And she put up her price. 

There were other consolations. He would find his poems written on the 
walls of lodging-houses, temples, village schools and ships* cabins. 


He was a classic b^ore he died. In 824 he had taken two dancing girls 
Fan-tzu and Man-tzu into his household^ and almost up to the end ^his 
life he was engaged on platonic love-affairs withjoung girls, whom he 
would accompany to the mountains and celebrate in his songs The 
old man showed signs ff youth in the last years oj his life Paralysis, 
arthritis, the losses of his friends — nothing could diminish his ardour 
for poetry and for picnics, and like Lu Yu <f the Sung dynasy, he 
wrote far too maiy poems on subjects of no value at all Most of his 
verse is, in the best sense, occasional, but it suffers precisely from his 
passion for the moment There is nothing timeless or eternal he never 
goes outside the gates of this world In one of his latest poems, he is 
pleased at the thought of dividing his poems among his grandchildren — 
seveny whole volumes, and three thousand essays and poems altogether. 
But sometimes, and often it would seem by accident, he produces a 
magical phrase, an evocation of a mountain journey, some remark or 
description cf one of his favourite dancing- girls, a thought of Yuan 
Chens which is perfect in its absolute benediction 


The following poem, written in A D 806, when Po Chu-I was tbrty-four, 
has been described by Mr Waley as “a youthful bid for notonety”, but nothmg 
could be further from the truth. Deliberately the poet is attemptmg to re-create 
the atmosphere of the tragic journey from Ch’ang-an durmg which the Emperor 
Ming Huang saw his consort strangled and his empire threatened by treachery 
from all sides The poem is hard and bnlliant m the onginal, and sustained 
by idle tragic force of the past, it is not the greatest poem he wrote, but it is 
certainly one of the most amazing efforts undertaken by any Chinese poet to 
describe the whole ethos of a departed civilisation 

This Chinese Emperor, loving beauty, longed for “the hller of 

Yet for many years of his rei^ he could never find one 
There was m the family of Yang a young girl grown to womanhood. 
Reared m the inner apartments and scarcely known 
Nature had endowed her with beauty hard to conceal 
One day she was taken and presented to the Emperor. 

When she turned and simled her hundred charms appeared. 
Rendering colourless all the painted girls of the Six Palaces 

1 Refers to a beauty of the Han Dynasty who with one glance could overthrow a aty 
and with two glances an empire 


In the cold Spnng she was bathed in Hna Ch^ing Pool,^ 

In the caressing hot springs she was washed smooth as curd — 
Enchanting her fragility when held up by the maidens 
It was then that she began to receive the favours of the king 
Wearing flowering aigrettes and gold plumes, 

In a warm bed netted with hibiscus she passed the spnng nights 

0 Spring nights too short, O sun too early on high’ 

Henceforth the kmg never summoned his mommg levees 
She shared his pleasures and feasts, was never at leisure, 
Accomplice of his journeys m spring, companion of his nights, 
There were three thousand beauties in the inner apartments. 
But of all these three thousand he loved only one. 

In a gold house she prepared herself for the night, ^ 

In jade towers after feastmg they surrendered to drunkenness. 
Her sisters and brothers were honoured with fiefs, 

So bnght a glory fell on the whole family 
That all mo Aers and fathers in the Empire 
Thought It better to give birth to girls than to boys. 

From the palace of the Dark Horse which pierces the blue clouds® 
A fairy music, ndmg the vvunds, was heard throughout the land. 
Of graceful singmg and wavmg dances from zithers and flutes — 
Rejoicing all day, the Emperor never tired 
Then the war-drums were heard, shaking the earth, from Yu-yang, 
Throwing mto panic "the Song of the Rainbow Skirt and the Coat 
of Feathers” ^ 

From the city of nine-fold walls dust rose like smoke, 

A thousand chariots, ten thousand horsemen rode south-west. 
The emperor^s kmgfisher peimon trembling and coming to a halt 
At a place a himdred li west of the imperial city.® 

What could be done when the Six Hosts refused to march?® 
Kmtting her moth eye-brows, death caught her among the horses, 

^ Hua Ch’ing Kixng, or Glory of Punty Palace lay some miles south-east of Ch’aog-an 
and was famous for its warm sprmgs The place is now known as Lmtung, and it was here 
that the Generalissimo was arrested m 1936 

* Refers to A-chiao, a concubine of Wu Ti of the Han Dynasty When his aunt pointed 
to her daughter, the young Prmcess A-chiao, the boy replied “Ah, if I could have A-chiao, 

1 would have a golden house to keep her in” 

* Li Shan, or Dark Horse Mountains lie twenty miles south-east of the capital and Hua 
Ch’ing Kung lay m their shadows 

^ The name of a song composed by Ming Huang after a visit to the Paradise of the Moon, 
or according to others on the basis of an». ndian tune he received as an ofEermg from the 
country of West Liang 

* B^ers to Ma Wei P'o (Horse Ridge Slope) where the mutmy occurred 

♦Rrom the Chou Dynasty onward the Emperor had been allowed six armies of i 2 s,oqo 
men each. 


Her hair-pins scattered over the earth, no one picking them up — 
Kmgfisher feathers, gold birds, combs of jade 
The Emperor hid his face, xmable to save her; 

At last he turned towardsrher, tears mingled with blood. 

Yellow dust floating m space, wnnds whistling m the air — 
Along winding bridges, over precipices, they chmbed Sword Pass.^ 
On Mount Omei^ few travellers pass. 

In this dim simlight how dull were their banners ! 

In Shu the rivers are green, the hills are blue ® 

His Sacred Majesty sorrowed from dawn to dusk. 

From the imperial palace the moon was seen to be grief-stricken, 
The bells m the night rain twisted the entrails 
Heaven and Earth revolved, the Dragon Chanot drove home ; 
Reaching the fatal place, he Imgered and could not go on. 
There m the dust and sand on the slope of Ma Wei^ 

He sees no more her jade face, only the empty death place. 

The eyes of Sovereign and minister meet, they wet their robes 
with tears, 

Then look east to the capital and give rein to their horses. 
There is the Pool, there are the flowers as of old, 

Hibiscus in the Sublime Lake, willows in the Palace of Endless 
Days — 

Hibiscus like her face, willow-twigs like her brows. 

Seeing these things, how could he not shed tears 

When plum-trees and pear-trees blossom m the Sprmg winds, 

When the leaves of the wu-t'ung tree fall in the autumn ram? 

In the west and south palaces autumn grasses abound 
llnswept and red ^re the fallen leaves on the steps. 

In the Pear Blossom Garden® die hair of the student is white. 
The brows of the eunuchs of the Pepper Chamber® now are aged. 
In the hall at night, where fireflies flit, he sinks in silence, 

Unable to sleep, though the oil m the lonely lamp has burnt out — 
So slow are the watchman's bells and the mghts so long. 

Rivers of stars dimly scatter their light, pretendmg to be dawn. 
The duck-and-drake tiles are cold, the frost shaip 
Who will share with him the kingfisher quilts of old? 

^ Sword Pass connects two great mountains in Szechuan 

* One of the five sacre'd mountains, not far from Chengtu 

® Shu IS the ancient name for Szechuan, the implication is that the nvers and mountains 
are both dark with gnef 

* Ma Wei P*o IS a mountain due west of Ch*ang-an 

* An Imperial School founded by the Emperor where singmg and dancmg were taught 

* The Queen's private apartment was painted with fragrant peppers m the Han Dynasty. 


O great is the distance separating the dead from the living * 
Though a year had passed, her ghost had not visited him in dreams. 
A taoist monk from Lin-ch^ung, a gupst from Hung-tu/ 

Could by his faith summon the spirits from the dead 

Weighed down by the Emperor's mourning and perpetual torments , 

The sorcerer was bidden to seek out the dead 

Borne on the air, chariotmg the winds, he flew like lightning, 

Soaring to heaven, descending to earth, seeking everywhere, 

Explormg the empyrean, below, the Yellow Sprmgs, 

But nowhere in these vast spaces did he discover anything 
He heard that on the sea lay a magic mountam, 

A mountam engulfed among mysterious vacuities, 

Where decorated palaces rose on five-coloured clouds 
And many divine creatures lived there delicately 
Among them was one called T'ai Chen,^ 

Whose snow-white skin and flowery face might be hers 
At the western wing of a gold house he knocks on a jade door 
And bids Small Jade call on her mistress. Double Triumph, 

To announce the presence of the Son of Heaven, Lord of Han. 
Beneath the nme flower curtams the Queen awakens from dreams, 
Puts on her dress, pushes the pillows away, rises and hesitates, 
Then slides the pearl curtams open with a silver hook — 

The clouds of her hair awry as she awakens from slumber, 

She steps down into the hall with flowery head-dress m disarray 
The sleeves of the goddess float m the waving air. 

Once more she seemed to be dancing “the Rainbow Skirt and 
Coat of Feathers,” 

Her pure face sorrowmg, slowly the tears falling — 

O branch of pear-blossom m the Sprmg ram ! 

Subduing her emotion, withfrozen tears, she thanked the Emperor . 
“Smce we parted, our voices and faces have been separated. 

The passionate loves of Chao Yang^ Hall have been cut short. 
The days and months m Peng-lai^ Palace were so long. 

^ Hung-tu IS where the impenal archives were situated, not far from Ch’ang-an Taoist 
monks were traditionally arcbvists, smce it was recorded of Lao Tzu that he was 
archivist m the State Library of Chou 

* T*^ Chen, or Perfect Purity, the name by which Yang Kuei-fei was known at Court 
Originally it appears to have been the name she received when she was in a nunneiy, 
during the short interval before she became Mmg Huang^s consort 

* Intense Brilliance Palace, the Queen’s apartments 

* Named after the mysterious fairy island, and situated in the centre of the great court- 
yard which included the Great Saliva Pool Tu Fu speaks of *‘the clouds of five coloui^ 
which often float over the Peng-lai Palace” It was the most ornate and the most 
beautiful of all 


Now I gaze down upon the world of men. 

Never do I see Ch'ang-an — only the dust and the haze. 

Only by these keepsakes can I show my undying love. 

Through you I offer this goM hairpm and this inlaid case 
One wing of the hairpm I keep, one half of the case. 

Tell him, if his heart endures as gold or metal, 

In heaven or earth we shall one day meet agam”. 

Then, as he went away, she confided an imploring message. 
Speaking an oath known only to the two lovers. 

Spoken in Eternal Life Hall on the seventh day of the seventh 

When they were secretly talking, no one present, at midmght ^ 
“In the skies we shall be twin birds that fly together, 

On earth we shall be trees with branches mtertwmed 
Heaven is enduring, earth long-living, but they will perish, 

But the everlasting sorrow will never come to an end”. 


Against the lamp I sit by the south wmdow, 
Listenmg to the sleet and the wind in the dark 
Desolation deepens the night among the villages. 
Through the snow I hear the lost wild goose calling 


Because you are oldanddepartmg I have wetted my handkerchief, 
You who are homeless at seventy, belonging to the wilderness 
Anxiously I watch the wind rising as the boat sails away, 

A white-headed man amid white-headed waves 


The crane on the shore stands on a flight of stone steps, 

The moon from the pool beams through an open door. 

I am charmed by this place and stayed there, 

And could not leave for two nights. 

1 See Li Shang-yxn’s poem M<a Wei whicli recoxmts the same tragedy more briefly. 


Fortunate, that I should have found so quiet a place, 
Glad, that no companion should drag me away. 

Ever since I have tasted this lonelmess, 

I have decided never to come with Companions. 


Thin leaves wave on the wu-t’ung tree beside the well. 

Tlirough the poundmg of the washerwomen, autumn begins to 

Under the eaves, I find a place and sleep alone, 

And waking, I see the bed half-filled with the moon. 


I like sittmg alone when the moon is shming, 

And there are two pines standmg before the verandah; 

A breeze comes firom the south-west, 

Creeping into the branches and leaves 
Under the brilliant moon at midnight 
It whistles a cool, distant music, 

Like rustlmg rams in empty mountains 
And the serene harp-strings in the fall. 

On first hearing them, the heat of summer is washed away: 
And this suffocating boredom comes to an end. 

So I keep awake the whole night. 

Both the heart and the body becoming clear. 

Along the south street coaches and horses are stirring. 

In the west city soimds of playmg and smging. 

Who knows that under the roof-trees of this place 
The cars are full, but not with noise 


I lay my harp on the curved table, 

Sitthig there idly, filledf only with emotions. 
Why should I trouble to play? 

A breeze will come and sweep the strings. 


Beside the river'Stands Ae hundred-foot tower, 

There a highway runs a thousand miles into the distance. 
Looking at the far honzon from this height 
Suffices to comfort my mind and heart. 

Couriers bustle along the road, 

Soldiers hurry to their garrisons. 

In such troubled times 
Especially I feel it good to be idle: 

Now that I am past forty, 

It is really not too early to retire. 

Let me now clean my dust-stamed garments. 

It will not be too late to return to the hills. 


Among the ancient tombs both high and low, 
There is a path for cattle and sheep 
Standing alone on the highest of them, 

How carefree is my hearth 
Tummg to look at the village, 

I see nothing but weeds in deserted fields — 

The villagers are not fond of flowers. 

And have planted only chestnuts and dates. 

Ever smce I came to live here, 

I have never been delighted with the scenery. 
The flowers are few, the orioles are scarce, 

And when spring comes it can hardly be seen. 


I hear you have gone to hve among the village mounds 
By the lonely gate where the bamboo groves abound, 

I have come now only to beg you: 

Lend me your south garden that I may look at the, hills. 



Few visitors come through this gate, 

Many pines and bamboos grow in front of the steps ; 
The autumn air does not enter through the east wall, 
The cool wind blows mto the west courtyard. 

I have a harp* I am too lazy to play 
I have books I have no leisure to read. 

All day long m this land of a square incW 
There is only quietude and no desires 
Why should I make this house larger'? 

There is no use to say too much. 

A room of ten square feet is enough for the body, 

A peck of rice is sufficient for the belly 
Besides, without any ability m managing affairs, 

I idle and receive the emperor's salary 
I neidier plant a single mulberry tree 
Nor hoe a single furrow for rice, 

Yet I feed well all day, 

And all the year round I am well-clothed 
With such a conscience, knowing my shame, 

Why should I be discontented? 


Do not buy precious scissors — 

A thousand dollars vrill bnng no return 
I have sorrow in my heart, 

But you cannot cut it. 

Do not sharpen the knot-breakmg awl~— 

Your labours will be of no avail. 

I have a knot m my guts: 

You cannot disentangle it. 

Do not dye the silk thread red — 

The lovely colour would be proud, yet helpless. 
My tears are two strmgs of beads, 

But I know you cannot gather them. 

^ i.e. th<{ 


Do not ask me to approach the fire in the red stove 
The heat would oppress me, there would be no result 
I have frost on my temples, 

But I know It cannot Be thawed 

Scissors cannot cut out the sorrows in the heart, 

Awls cannot disentangle knots in guts, 

Threads cannot string the beads of tears, 

Fire cannot thaw the snow on hairs 
Let us drink the heavenly cup — 

All cares and worries cease at once! 


In the capital Sprmg comes late 

The noisy chanots and horses are passmg 

They say, ‘It is the time of the peonies”. 

So they come together to buy flowers 
Pnces, high and low, may change, 

But also It depends on how much you buy. 

Hundreds shme bright red. 

There is a bouquet white as crystal, 

Sheltered by curtams overhead 

And constructed on a bamboo framework. 

Watered and set m mud. 

These are the old colours, but changed 
Every house buys them accordmg to custom, 

And nobody thinks wrong of it 
Only an old man from the farm 
Commg by chance to the flower-market 
Lowers his head, deeply sighs — 

A sigh which no one understands 

Over a smgle posy of deep-coloured flowers 

Ten common families might smg! 


Sauntering through the village where red apricots blossom 
each year — 

For fifteen years I have been here several times 
I am seventy-three, it will be difficult to come again 
Now in Sprmg I come to say farewell to the flowers. 



On the hill to the south of the^ city 
The old charcoal-burner bumsHhe wood. 

His face is dusty and covered with smoke, 

His hair is grey at the temples, his fingers black. 

What would he desire from the money he gains 
Except garments to wear and food to eat? 

Yet frozen to the marrow m his thin coat 
He prays for a colder day, 

Lest the price of charcoal should drop. 

During the night a foot of snow fell, 

Whitenmg the world outside the town ; 

Breaking the ice, the old man 

In the early mornmg takes his charcoal cart along. 

But the beast is exhausted, the man hungry 
While the sun is ndmg high and the cart is standing 
In the mud and refuse outside the South Gate, 

Who should he see commg gracefully on two horses, 
But royal messengers m their white and yellow livery, 
Shoutmg aloud with papers in their hands? 

He guides the cart nordi, lashing at the animal, 

Widi cargo weighing a thousand catty 
Twenty yards of ^uze and eight of sarsenet 
Are tied to the head of the ox to pay for the fuel. 


The sand comes and goes, wave after wave. 

The surge dies, another rises, 

Stirring and reforming endlessly. 

They level the mountains and seas in time. 

The white waves go out into the vast ocean: 

The smooth sand stretches away into boundless distance. 

Ceaselessly, day and night, never-ending 

They will make the east ocean into a land of fields. 


To journey ten thousand miles over a green grass lake, 

I set sail alone m monsoon rams. 

Continually perturbed at the thought of a harbour at night, 
Where the winds wfustle and sombre waves are lapping 

Tell me why the river and the sea 
Resemble so much your love and my heart ^ 

What disturbs me is that you are not so faithful as the 

To be without you is to see the depths of the seas. 

There will be a day when dust will fly over this sea* 

One day, too, the mountains will turn into sand. 

Who had thought my love would abandon me here, 

Or that the prow of the ship is never turned back? 

Followmg the tides, riding the waves to the horizon, 

How many travellers ever returned? 

You may search m the city for wealth and power, 

But remember always what happens to sand and waves. 


I look at my shadow over and over m the lake; 

I see no white face, only the white hair. 

I have lost my youth, and shall never find it again. 
Useless to stir the lake-water! 


It seems a flower, but not a flower, 

It seems a mist but not a mist. 

It comes at midnight. 

It goes away in the morning. 

Its coming is like a spring dream that does not last long, 
And its gomg is like the morning cloud, you will find it 

H 22S 


White beard and pmk face, 

Happy in my half-drunkenness. 

A hundred years pass in an instant 
All becomes vague as I turn my head. 

I am a hermit lymg sick and lean, 

A crazy old drunkard walking and smging. 


I play with stones and sit beside the stream, 

I search for flowers and walk around the temple. 
Sometimes I listen to the songs of birds 
The sounds of spring are everyv^^here. 


The brightness of a bronze mirror, 

The whiteness of silken thread. 

How can I prevent people knowing my age? 
Surely you do not believe I have grown old? 


I try to forget, but it is in vam. 

I try to go, but I have no way. 

There are no wmgs on my axles, 

My head is covered with white hairs. 
I sit and watch the leaves fallmg, 

Or go up to the top of the tower. 
Shades hover in boundless twilight: 

A vast sadness comes to my eyes 



Yesterday I went to the yamen to pay my taxes 
And peeped through' the store-house gates. 

The cloth and silk were piled as high as hills, 

And gauzes and cotton mounted up like clouds. 

They were fine tributes 
To be offered to the Sovereign, 

But they were really the warmth stripped from my back 
To buy them temporal favours, 

That they might enter the golden royal house 
And become dust through the ages. 


The east wind is blowing in the north garden 
Flowers of all lands blossom one after another. 
Well aware that they will fall m a little while. 

I come to gaze on them three or fonr times a day. 
It is not that there is no wine among the flowers — 
Wine enough, I pour it out and hesitate. 

I am thinking about things thousands of miles away. 
O who will pour the wine for me? 


How luxuriant the grass in the meadow ^ 
Flourishmg and decaying m a smgle year. 

Even fire will not bum it up. 

For the Sprmg breeze will blow it to life again 
A distant fragrance invades the ancient road. 

Its deep green colour adjoms the ruined town. 
In biddmg farewell to the departing lords. 
How tender its affection ^ 

all translated hj Ching Ti 



9th century 


So infinitely vast, 

The level sands without end, 

Ringed round by nvers and waters. 

Hummocky with hills, 

In such a dark twilight, 

The -wind moans at sunset. 

Grasses and herbs have perished* 

In the early morning a chill hoarfrost. 

The birds flying up and down, 

The beasts having no place there. 

The keeper said to me* 

“Here was an old battlefield, 

Again and again there were wars 
Here the dead weep 
Under heaven ^s darkness”. 

O heart of darkness! 

The Chains and the Hans passed away. 

All these dynasties passed away, 

I heard when the Chins and the Weis gathered on the 

The Hans and the Chmgs made their levies, 

Ten thousand li they marched 
Through many years of misery. 

They grazed on the sands by day, 

Forded the nvers by night. 

The earth endless, the sky eternal, 

Not knowing when they would return, 

Bodies exposed to knives. 

Endless their misery and woes 1 


Since the Chins and the Hans have passed, 

Many events have occurrred in the four comers. 
The Middle Empire has been ravaged, 

No generation has remained unharmed 
In ancient times the Chinese and the Huns 
Did not protest against the imperial rule. 

The place of right was surrendered to power: 

The rough soldier cast aside benevolence and duty. 
The rule of the Tao was sacrificed! 

Now once again I see these things, 

I see the north wind shroudmg them in dust, 

The Tartar soldiers caught m ambuscades. 

The general hardly fighting. 

Preferring to wage war at the camp-gates. 

Banners wave over the plain, 

The river surrounds the combatants. 

Order is enforced on beating hearts. 

Commands are uttered, life is valueless! 

The harsh spear penetrates flesh. 

The frightened sand enters their eyes. 

The armies are locked together. 

Mountains and streams cry aloud, 

The rivers scream 
Under the thunder of arms. 

Then the cold night falls • 

They are knee-deep m snow, 

Their beards are stiff with ice. 

The screaming vulture flies to its nest, 

The huge war-horses are broken 
Garments do not protect from the cold. 

Arms are frost-bitten and the flesh tom. 

Heaven helps the Tartars, 

Sendmg a deadly wind, 

Workmg with Aem to bring death. 

Ambulance carts block the way, 

Our flanks are pierced, 

Our officers surrender. 

Our general lies dead. 

The river is swollen with corpses, 


Blood streams along the ditches of the Great Wall 
Nothing of worth, nothing of value remains. 

All, all are the same — 

A heap of rottmg bones. 

Softly and more softly beat the drums, ^ 

Strength m^de small, all arrows spent, 

Bowstrmgs snapped, swords smashed to pieces: 

The two armies wage mortal combat. 

Should we yield, 

We shall become the slaves of the barbarians 

To fight agamst the Tartars 

Is to mingle our bones with the desert sand. 

No bird smgs on the hushed hills, 

A long night, the wind whistlmg 

Ghosts of the dead wandermg under dark heavens, 

The spirits gather under the menacmg clouds 
The sun shines its cold light on the trampled grasses, 

The fadmg moon glitters on the white frost. 

The heart bleeds, seemg these things. 

In the knowledge that such things have happened^ 

I have heard say 

That Li Mu led the soldiers of Chao^ 

And gained victory over the Tartars. 

For ten thousand h the earth was swept clean: 

The Hsnmg-nu were erased from the land. 

But the empire was exhausted. 

They had neither the strength nor the men: 

Their numbers availed them nothing 

So did the Chous also 
Drive the barbarians north. 

They occupied the land. 

And at last returned to their homes. 

Then they gave thanks to Heaven, 

And gave themselves up to enjoyment, 

To feastmg and dancmg. 

The pleasures of peace. 

^ Here and elsewhere Li Hua introduces the musical sobbmg vowel which Chu Yuan 
had used throughout the li Sao 

* Li Mu, d 21$ B.C , was a great general of the Chao State who inflicted so great a 
d^eat OB the Hsiung-nu that they did not venture to malce war for ten years 


The Chains built the Great Wall 
Which stretched down to the sea. 

But war breathed its vapours, 

For ten thousand h there were only corpses. 

The Hans seized the territory of the Hsiung-nu, 
They layed siege to Yin-Mountain: 

Their bodies lay on the plains, 

The gam was smaller than the loss. 

O High Heaven I beseech you, 

Those who are fathers and mothers, 

Who raise their children, 

Fear to bring them to maturity. 

Those who have brothers 
Love them as much as themselves. 

Those who have wives, so close and dear to them — 
None owe their thanks to life. 

None deserve death. 

Whether they are alive or dead. 

Their family knows nothing of it. 

If a man should bring them news, 

They will be half-trustmg, half-doubtful, 

Hearts overflowing with grief. 

Sleeping or wakmg they see him 
They prepare sacrifices and libations ; 

They look towards distant heaven, 

Heaven and earth sorrow, 

So too do the trees and herbs. 

And when the spirits fail to return, 

Where shall they find peace? 

There will be disasters for years, 

The people will be scattered m the winds: 

Such is the command of life. 

Such it has been from the beginning. 

There is nothmg left to us 

But to remain within four comers ^ 

^ The poem is generally written m four syllable lines, which give it an overwhelming 
sense of solid desolation in the original, but the poet occasionally and quite deliberately 
introduces lines of seven or even eight syllables to break the monotony, and to rend 
the heart-stnngs Though he accomphshes this purpose perfectly, the poem remains an 
academy piece, too generalised to have sprung from deeply felt emotions 



A native Chiang-ning^ who graduated as chin shih, entered the 
capital and became for a while archivist in the secret archives cf the 
Emperor, but fell into di favour and suffered banishment When An 
Lu-shan's rebellion broke out, he returned to Chiang-mng, where he 
was murdered bj the censor Lu Ch*iu-hsiao 


The young wife, upon whom grief has not yet come, 

On a sprmg day paints her face and climbs the emerald 

Suddenly she sees the willow-buds bursting along the path, 
And sorrows that she has sent her husband to the wars. 


Over the Kokonor the long clouds darken the snow 

The lonely city in the distance looks towards the Yu-men 

There in the yellow sand of a hundred battles, armour was 
pierced through 

We swear we shall defeat the tribesmen before we return. 

Here in the great desert wind and dust darken the sky,i 

A half-furled crimson flag stands at the barrack door: 

At night our vanguards fought north of the Tiao river. 

Ihey say; We have captured alive the enemy tribesmen. 

^ LijcacaQy: QxtAt desert vnzud dust sim colour <lim 


It is still die moon of the Ch’ins, the frontier of the Hans. 

The expedition went ten thousand h away and may never 

If only the flymg gener^ of Limg-chen were still here, 

Never would the Hsiung-nu pass over the Ym-mountams.i 

Astride a roan mare vsdth a white jade saddle, 

In the cold moonhght the fighting has ceased in the desert. 

From the heights of the city the rumbhng of drums can be 

The sword with the undned blood is laid in the metal 

translated by Wang Sheng-chih 

^ The Yin mountains, which are contmually referred to m connection with the border 
warfare of the poems, are a range of mountains running across Shansi, Hopei and the 
Jehol border The wars mentioned in this poem were the wars of the Han Dynasty, not oi 



9th century 


A piece of coloured cloud shines on the stone well, 
And colours the peach flowers under the spring. 
Who knows that under this delicate stone 
There may not be a road to fairyland? 



8th century 


The hanging bridge is lost m wandering mist, 
There m some far and distant region. 

Beneath high rocks close to the western shore 
A fisherman's boat is drifting. 

Who alone can tell, since all the long day 
Peach-blossoms follow the movmg water, 

If this may be the crystal mountam stream 
Which leads mto the empire of the immortals? 



9th century 


At last I have found the spring where everything is hidden, 
I have gone through a desert country where there are no 

Riding my horse through clumps of wild bamboos, 

I have come to the flowering peach-trees and the men here. 

Mountains crowned with snow surround the lost valley. 
Smoke rises from a few cottages spread thmly on the plain. 
The woodcutters greet me. “Old men, I have nothing to say 
Except that the empire of Ch"in has passed away”. 



9th century 


Leisurely widi some rustic fellow beside the wild river, 
In early spring high trees in the blue moonlight. 

Oblivious to the endless events in the dusty world 
The two white birds fade into the jade forest. 




C 73^-830 

native of Ch’ang-an, he was for a while a soldier in the bo^guard of 
e Emperor Ming Huang, but later he entered a civil career and rose 
be Governor <f Suchow. 


In the high forest dew drips this clear summer night. 
On the South Mountain the cuckoo smgs one song 
Nearby, a widow holdmg her child is weepmg. 

Alone I toss m the bed When will the dawn come? 



He became chin shih in 7^9? ^30 is known to have been 

Superintendent o/’ Instruction at Hochung in Shansi 


Far the best time for the poet is early spring, 

The willow leaves greening and yellowmg. 

If you wait till the leaves in the park are of full brocade, 
There will always be too many people looking at flowers. 




! IS famous for his own love-sick poetrj and for his friendship with 


Beyond the tower lies the river, 

The moon is low over the sea, 

The horns sob on the walls, 

The willows wave in the dyke. 

Grey is the mist on the island. 

Now two columns of geese are flying away 
Along the road to Chm-kou 
The sails of ships passing by. 

Now that the fragrance of spring is vanishing, 
The silver candle bums down. 

The stars in the Jade Ring are sinking. 

A cock crows in the village. 




Famous as a calhgraphist and essayist, he rose to be seaeta^ to the 
Board of Bates. He was ajnend of tie distingmshed poet Han Yu, but 
disagreed with his interpretations of Buddhism, and remained himsef 
a Buddhist to the end <f his life. In 8 IS he was banished to huchow in 
Kwangsi, where he retained the tide f governor. Here he died, and 
Han Yu wrote the memorial which was read and later burnt over his 


Across thousands of mountains no birds fly, 
Across thousands of paths there are no footprints. 
On a lonely boat lies an old fisherman 
Fishmg sohtanly m the ice of a frozen stream. 




Like Liu Tsung-juan^ he was a friend (f Han Yuy whom he is supposed 
to have met first when absent-mindedlj knocking against him in the 
street while composing a poem. He was banished to Szechuan for com- 
posing lampoons f and died shortly after he was restored to favour. 


Under the pines I ask the boy. 

“My master has gone gathering herbs”, he said. 

“He is somewhere m the mountam, 

Deep in the clouds where no one knows”. 



8th and 9th century 

The date his birth is uncertain, but it is known that he was born 
in Niao^chiang in Kiangnan of one oj the most illustrious families in 
the empire. He, too, was a friend of Han Yu, He wasfrst attached to 
the imperial archives, but in 8 IS he became a tutor on Han Yu*s 
recommendation in the Imperial Academj, He died with the rank of 
president of the Academy at the age of 80, 


My lord, you know that I am married and have a husband, 
Yet you still give me this pair of crystal pearls. 

I am moved by your Imgering passion, 

I conceal the pearls in my coat of red silk 
There in the high towers adjoining the palace, 

My husband holds the gold sword of a l^g^s guard; 

I know your heart shines like the sim and moon. 

But you must know that I have sworn constancy whether 
I live or die. 

I return your crystal pearls, while tears fall from my eyes, 
Regretting that we did not meet when I was unmarried. 

^ The poem u said to have been wntten to a rebel, who bad made overtures to him. 



He was also known as Yun-jen, and was m the prime of his life in the 
Ta-h period (77^-779) 


The way is long, the body overburdened, 

Foodless, he journeys the thousand li to his home, 
Tearing his hair and sobbmg before the old city walls, 
While the autunm wmd pierces his golden scars. ^ 


The east wind blows over the green rain mountains. 
I see a thousand green houses in my dreams. 

When shall I arrive at my homestead? 

Spring falls on the nver. How many ever return? 
Over rivers and plains float the curling clouds: 
Palaces and castles stand in the settmg sun. 

Who remembers the scholar m a world at war? 
Grey-haired, I stand alone at the Pass of ChTn. 


The arrows of Chimpoko are tipped with hawks" feathers ; 
Our pennons gleam with swallow-tails. 

They wave alone, proclaimmg the new order. 

A thousand companies raise a single shout. 

^ Or: WHle the autunm wmd pierces ius scars received from metal. Ch*m usually means 
metal, Imt here would appear to be a colour rather than a description of how the wound 
was received. 


In the dark forest the grass is frightened by the wind. 
At night the general stretches his bow. 

In the early morning he finds the white feather 
Hidden amid white 'kones 

Dark night; the wild geese fly high. 

The Shanyu^ are fleemg, fleemg. 

We pray for daylight and a cavalry charge; 

A great snowfall conceals our bows and knives. 

In the desert our broad tents filled with food: 

The western tribesmen praise the victory. 

We drink and dance together m iron mail: 

The thunder of drums moves the moimtam rivers. 

The Kings of die Hsiung-nu tnbespeople. 



9th century 


The beautiful grapewine, the night-ghttering cups: 
Drinking or not drinking, the horns summon you to mount. 
Do not laugh if I am drunk on the sandy battlefields. 

From ancient times, how many warriors ever returned? 


d. 827? 

At one time he was probably the most popular poet in the whole Vang 
Empire. He was an (^cial who later took to wandering j but returned 
to the capital to become sub-Librarian in the Imperial Libra^. He 
retired as President the Board oj Rites. 


The Tien Shan snowed soon after the cold sea- wind came; 
The flutes blew all the time, and the roads were hard. 
There were three hundred thousand soldiers on the desert. 
Suddenly they all turned and looked at the moon. 



8th century 

He IS known to have graduated m 727, in the reign Mmg Huang. 
For some time he occupied an official position^ but later becoming a 
taoist he became a wanderer and henc^orward all trace of him is losty 
except for the poems he 1 ft behind him. 


I entered an ancient temple at the dawn, 

Already the early sun was shinmg on the forest. 

Through wmding paths I came to this solitary place, 

There where the cells of monks were heaped high with 

The mountam colours have made the birds sing: 

The shadows m the pool empty the hearts of men. 

The ten thousand sounds of the world are hushed in this 

All is still, but the resoimding bells. 



9th century 


All night they fought north of Hsiangkiang, 

Half of our soldiers of Ch"in have not returned. 

But when morning dawned, letters arrived from home, 
The folks at home were sendmg them winter clothes 



9th century 


The Yellow River climbs amid the white clouds, 

A lonely city stands amid heaven-piercmg peaks 
Why should the Tartar's complam of the willows? 
The wind of spring never crosses the Jade Gate Pass 



He was a descendant of rojal princes — in the early jears of the Tang 
dynas^^ somewhere about the year 630 his ancestor had been ennobled 
under the title of Prince Ch^un — and there is in his poety, as in the 
poety f h Ho Chou, the last f the Southern Tang Emperors, an 
extraordinay nobihy and consciousness f power Li Ho was born 
when his family was in decay, povery-stricken, genteel and not altogether 
respected. He was born in Chun-K^u, a small town in Honan, where 
according to his own description three rivers ran near his home, and 
there were mountains thickly covered with junipers and bamboos, and 
somewhere in the neighbouring forest lay a ruined temple dedicated to a 
virgin goddess, but the temple was ruined and worm-eaten, with spider- 
webs hanging on the pillars andfrefhes swarming in the sacred chamber 
of the goddess. Thither he rode on horseback alone, or accompanied by 
a page, a silk bag attached to the saddle into which he threw his poems, 
complete^ cut off from the world, living in dreams, possessing a deep 
attachment to the royal house and like maty lonely people, strangely 
brutal at times. 

In person he was handsome, with thick yebrows, a narrow waist, long 
fingernails and a detached aristocratic expression. He had something of 
Baudelaire^ s satanism and talked to ghosts. When he was still young, 
his beard turned white. When he was I8, the great poet and scholar 
Han Yu visited him, and he wrote one of his greatest poems in honour 
f the occasion, Han Yu managed to obtain for him a small official 
position, and he spent three years away from home When he returned, 
the povery continued. He pledged his clothes for wine, his hair grew 
whiter, a deeper melanchofy settled on him He still hoped the Emperor 
would pour favour on him and even wrote for the Emperor^ s eyes 
“When will the ye f Heaven open, and when will my old sword roar^ 
But be was fated to remain impoverished to the end, having succumbed 
to the disease f poety,for he was writing endless^ and with tremendous 
concentration — Li Shang-yin, who wrote a short biograply f him, 
records that when he returned to the house one day, his mother looked 


into the bagy and seeing that there were many more poems there, 
exclaimed: ^Mj son wants to vomit his heanl\ He died at die age oj 
twen^-seven, Li Shang-jin records also the circumstances of his death 

“When Li Ho was dying, he saw in daylight a man wearmg red 
garments, riding on a red dragon and holdmg in his hands a 
wooden tablet on which ancient characters were engraved. 
He said: “We have come to summon Li Ho” Li Ho could not 
read the ancient characters on the tablet, but left the bed and 
knelt down saying. “My mother is old and sick, and I do not 
want to leave her”. The man in the red garments smiled and 
said: “The King has just built a White Jade Palace and desires 
you to write about it. Heaven has sent me to accompany you — 
the journey will not be painfiil”, Li Ho wept. All the men and 
women near his deathbed saw the miracle. After a while, 
there was no breath left in him. Mist rose from the window, 
and there was the sound of chariots and music. His mother 
bade the people to stop crymg, they waited for a few moments 
and then he died”. 

His poety IS hard and metalliCy and is almost untranslateable — se 
great is the compression oJ images and the leap of his verse. Fragments 
are <^ten more revealing than hs finished poems images are struck offy 
like sparks from fiinty and the sparks turn into fireflies and will'-o^-the- 
wisps. Chinese critics are fond of comparing him with KeatSy but he is 
entirely himself y one of the greatest of Chinese poets and one of die most 
d^cult. Li Shang-jin insists on his complete dedication to poety 
“He passed his^ days wntingy except when he was absolute^ drunk or 
going to afuneraP, One suspects that Li Ho enjoyed funerals as much 
as Shelly enjoyed cavorting round grav^ards at night. 

Something of die spirit <f his dedication to poetiy can be seen from the 

Li Ho of West Shansi is a dejected guest. 

After drinking, he feels a constriction on his heart 
Flax-clothes are in tatters m this autumn in the north city. 

All night I write poetry until the east grows pale white. 

Tu Mu said in a prface to h Ho*s collected work that he was following 
die tradition of the Li Sao f Cbu YuaUy which is translated in this 
bo(A. Like Chu Yuan, he bitter]^ attacked the Court, but for different 
reasons, and these reasons were not always commendable. He wanted 
pmkr and pomimy but more than airything he wanted to shine in die 


brilliance oj the Tang court. He Jailed, and resumed his interminable 
pilgrimage in search oJ the vanished kings oJ the past. In one of bis 
poems Li Ho said. %hu Yuan was foolish to drown himself in the 
Hsiang nm”, but Li Ho seems^'^to have been less foolish m his own death 
— there was never in Chinese historj so great a dedication to poet^. 
He has Marlowe* s power * m three words he can summon up vamshed 
glories, and make them sing , 

Nine pillars stand m rows on the marble: flower-painted 
square stones. 

Blood from a stabbed leopard flows down to fill a silver cup. 
Trumpets and drums attend the fruitful banquet — ^no strings, 
no jfutes . , 

/ have not translated this poem, which rfers to the great hero Chu 
T*a~wang, because it is almost impossible to translate, but few other 
poems have so much power Yet he could sing of his pover^ as gracefallf 
and as angrily as Tu Fu: 

I live in my home among moxmtams, 

I have one acre of lean weedy land, 

In the night and the ram the tax-collector cries . , 

My family prays for my success m earnest, 

So that I can stuff my himgry stomach. 

O my mind is in turmoil, 

The flowers of the lamp shine on my tearful eyes . . . 

He was tender towards his jounger brother, Shu-tzu 

The little swan is soaring over the highest moxmtain. 

And its shadow falls deep on the Great River . . . 

and though there is a kind of implied satamsm in nearly eveything he 
wrote, there were times when a pure tenderness of fync feeling comes 
to him. Working in the capital, he thinks <f home : 

In the wind and ram of night in the capital, 

I, a guest of books, dream of Chim-k^u 
My mother is laughmg in the centre of the hall, 

My little brother is planting a green bamboo . . • 

He liked riding on horseback over dangerous mountains, he liked all that 
was ancient, and he bated the deterioration in the empire. The critic 
Sun Wan-chan has pointed out that ^because he was a descendant of the 
rojal house, he grieved for the county founded bj his ancestors, he 


hated the marriage policy hj which the barbarians were married into 
the imperial Jamily, he objected to the Emperor^ s addiction to taoist 
magic and to the independence oj mary the generals in the great 
towns, he objected to the mihtaij possessed bj the eunuchs, to the 
quarrels at court and to the invasions of wild tribes He was a subordinate 
officer, and therffiore could not reach the Emperor » So he rode on his lean 
ass over wild precipitous mountains, and embodied his poetij in 
melancholy, peculiarly, a wild temper and figurative speeches” » 

We do not hnow how mary poems Li Ho wrote — probably mary hundreds 
more than have been preserved Shortly after bis death, the poems were 
collected together^ The poet Tu Mu received a letter from a certain Sun 
Tze-ming who said. “My dead friend Li Ho was my friend. Day and 
night, we rose and slept together, we drank and ate together. When he 
was ^ing, he gave me all the poems he wrote during his life. He 
divided diem into four volumes, ^together 233 poems”. Li Shangyin 
suggests that mary more were written. Some were thrown carelessly away, 
odiers according to a legend were destroyed by the poet^s cousins, still 
others probably disappeared in the continual upheavals that rocked the 
kingdom. The two hundred and thiry-three poems that remain may 
however have been the best and those which he wanted preserved 
jfter Li Ho^s death Li Shangyin wrote a fragment which may be 
considered as his epitaph 

"Alas, for heaven is great and high, and is there really a king of 
the gods above, and does he entertain himself with palaces and 
gardens and colonnades? If this is true, then the far and high 
Heaven and the grand and solemn kmg himself should possess 
writers of their own — ^why do they love Li Ho so much and 
make him die young? Is it because earth has few poets of genius 
that Heaven also has very few?” 

And though even in Chinese poety there are comparative^ few great 
poerm, there is no doubt that Li Ho was among die greatest. He was 
singularly gfted, he possessed an ye for colours that no one has ever 
equalled, and sometimes in the poemsyou can feel the plysical power of the 
poet, and you can almost see him as he walks towards the abandoned 
temple, stoop shouldered, with a short white beard, followed by a lean 
ass on which there rests a silk pannier full of poems. 

— Ho Chih-yuan 



Today, the fifth moon, there are rice shoots at Chim-k*u: 
Slender and green are the smooth flooded fields, 

And on the far moxmtains the peaks press down 
I grieve for the jagged green rocks, ^raid they will fall. 

Pure brightness of air where no autumn is* 

Cool winds drifting through enchanted green lands. 

There is a sad loneliness among the scented bamboos ; 
White powdered gnarls, leaves freshly green, 

Furry grass drooping sorrowful hairs, 

Ghstenmg dew shedding faint tears, 

A road windmg to a green cavern among dense leaves, 
Where the flowers in the pathway are faded, drunken and 

There, swarms of woodlice bore into ancient willows 
And the cicades cry shrilly from the bnghtest and deepest 

The huge scarves of yellow vines weave down: 
Criss-crossed over slender streams are the purple flagleaves 
Thick moss like pennies clmgs to the stones 
And there are succulent clusters of hangmg leaves. 

O white and smooth is the washed sand 

Where green emblems are prmted by horses' hooves. 

In the evenmg fishes swim smoothly along. 

In the dusk the lone, lean stork stands. 

Liao-liao smg the damp frogs, 

And a slow surprised stream dashes against the rock. 

Crooked and wmding is True Jade Road: 

A virgin goddess lies m a violet flower 
Willow-sedge coils over pebbles and streams: 
Moxmtain fruit hang scarlet and red. 

Sappling cypresses shake like waved fans, 

And plump pines ooze out crimson juices. 


A singing stream utters resonant songs: 

Glowing corn-ears droop from the autumn slopes, 

While orioles mimic a song of a bird-throated girl. 

Like a white satm dress hangs the waterfall, 

The spray is filled with laughmg eyes. 

The cave-crannied cliffs are about to fall. 

Tangled bamboo shoots sprout from the highest rocks. 

And the slender-necked bird clamours from the fountains^ 

The sim rays sweep up the dim mist. 

New clouds rise with transparent depths of colour. 

Silent and clear is this hateful summer night. 

A west wind pours through the crystal air 

She sleeps m her shrine, her jade face is at peace: 

Incense of burnt cinnamon adores her heavenly throne. 

In this dark mght she hes clothed in veils of scent: 

Deep in meditation she dreams of her sleepmg altar. 

Waiting for the king, the ancient roosting birds of bronze. 
The wails in the old place are broken and yellow like pepper 
TingAing sound the few remnants of the bells 
The wandermg courtier listens, filled with his icy thoughts. 

Cool ivy binds the red doorsprings. 

There are evil spirits dwellmg in the dragon-pamted curtains . 
Flowermg willows pierce through the green bimds 
The scented bedsheets once served the fallen dukes. 

Dust of singing-maidens hes on the worm-eaten floor 
And the skirts of dancers are curled up like tenuous clouds. 

The tithes of earth are stripped into lengths of satm. 

Once did the peasants chensh their virtuous ancestral customs : 
Once at funerals no one beat time with pestles, 

Nor was their evil witchcraft concerning plagues and disease. 

Then old men with fish-scale skins were generous and kind, 
And children with hom-braided hair knew shame and modesty 
There was no need to have judges at court 
And no one thought of scolding tax-collectors. 


Bamboo clusters add to lost bamboo-leaves ^ 

The stone banks tempt the fishermen with hook and Ime: 
The streams wind liquid scarves, 

Banana trees incline their papery leaves. 

Gleams from high peaks dazzle like shot gauze* 

Seeing the lonely moon sweeps away sorrows. 

The spring stream flows like a beaker of Tao-chhen's^ wme. 
Ting4mg ring the distant bells. 

Chiao-Chiao echoes the lonely bird. 

High soaring porphyry rocks shine black and purple. 
Dangerous explosions of spring rival the fountain's uproar. 

The moon floatmg in a smooth cobalt sky 
Lies dim, the invader, among haggard clouds. 

A cool light overflows the banks and streams. 

Dissolving all outlines of the mountam. 

The fisherman's boy lowers his net at night* 

The frost-bird claps smoke-grey wmgs. 

In the mirror-clear pool glides the crocodile's saliva. 

Fish spit floating bubbles of pearl. 

The plane-tree in the wind soughs like a harp encased 
in jade 

The fire-flies are messengers commg to the embroidered city.® 
Branches of willow weave out long streamers. 

A bamboo grove quivering rustles with the sound of small 

Green moss creeps among pebbles: 

The reed shoots peer through the muddy water. 

The sky is reflected in drifting whirlpools. 

Old jumpers seize the hand of a cloud. 

In the sombre moonlight shme the red curtams of eglantme. 

The scented thom-grasses he under overhangmg clouds. 

The beards of wheat stretch for a hundred miles. 

Thousands of empty carts he idle m the market-place 
I, a descendant of the royal house, now a servant of others 
With the deepest pleasure bow low to the earth. 

’ As m English, there is a pun on the two senses of “leaves” 

* Tao Yuan-mxng, one of the greatest of Chinese poets, known for his love of wine 

* A common sobriquet for Ch*ang-an, the capital of many of the T’ang Emperors, now 
known as Sian 




The arrowhead imngled with black ash, brown powdered 
bones, watery reddish stains; 

And cold is the ancient blood that resembles green flowers 

The white feather on the rigid stem has rotted in the ram. 

There is only the wedge-shaped arrowhead like a wolf ^s tooth 

I was wandermg along the plain, my two horses with me. 

East of the travelling-post, among stony rice-fields, beneath 
weed-ridden hills, 

A wild wind, a short day, the stars few and solitary. 

Damp clouds m the night sky hung like black flags 

The hungry ghosts on the left, the lean spirits on the right 
cried out aloud 

I poured out a bottle of wme, dedicated a roasted sheep. 

The insects were silent, the wild geese lamenting, the red 
reeds shone. 

A whirlwind came to blow the will-o'-the-wisps, bidding the 
guest farewell 

A long while ago I held up the iron arrowhead with tears. 

The once-red broken head had once pierced someone ^s flesh. 

In the south village east of the city a boy on horseback 

Begged me to buy fresh bamboos and formsh him with this 


The sun has returned to the west mountains: 

Deep and far rises the blue night sky. 

Where does the past and the present end? 

Thousands of years have been blown away by the wind. 
The sands of the sea-bed are fused into rock. 

Fish are still breathing bubbles under the Emperor's bridge. 
Time has wandered its long road, 

And the bronze pillars were long ago destroyed. 


The wind in the planetrees shakes my heart, alas! 

In the weak lamplight the cold cnckets cry like the 
of silk 

How may I look on a green bamboo leaf 

Without first driving away the worms eatmg at the holes? 

Thinking of my helpless works, I must make my heart stead- 

What scented souls in these cold rams will share my grief? 

On autumn graves the ghosts are singmg Pao's^ poems. 

After thousands of years in the earth the hateful blood turns 


/ rode on a painted chariot. 

My beloved rode on a blue horse. 

When shall we become true lovers? 

Under the pines and ^presses beneath the West Hill, 

— Old Song. 

Dewdrops of shaded orchids 
Gaze as the eyes weep* 

They shall never be true lovers, 

The dancing girl will never enter her lover's home. 

Literally “pull my mtestines straight* 

An unlmown poet, perhaps of the Han dynasty. 


The grass shall be my carpet, 

The pme-trees my cloak, 

The wind my embroidered dress. 

Streams shall be my blue jewels 
Within my painted chariot 
I have lingered all night. 

Cold are the green candles of the will-o'-the-wisps, 
Ever flickering, ever glowing 
Beneath the Western Hill 
The wind blows cold ram 


Woe to the South Mountam^ 

The ram mist showers on the dead grasses 

In this midnight m the Capital 

How many will turn old in the wmd^ 

I am lost in the evemng pathways 
Winding dimly among dim oakgroves 
The moon at the Pole drives away the vast shadows of the 

And the moimtam glares m a grey-white dawn. 

The green torches jump to welcome new ghosts: 

The gleam of fire-flies sparkles among the new-dug graves 


Long songs wore out my garments. 

Short songs broke my white hair. 

The Emperor does not allow himself to be seen. 
Internal fevers shake my body morning and evening. 

Thirsty, I drink wine. 

Hungry, I take com. 

This melancholy-cool April will soon end, 

And then there will be a thousand miles of green. 


Look, how each mountain peak at night stands alone. 
The moonlight falls on each rounded stone. 
Lmgenng, I search ^ong them. 

The moon shines above the high battlements 
I cannot wander about when the moon is there; 

The song over, my hairs have changed colour 


Plant no trees in the garden. 

Trees only worry you throughout the year. 

Sleep alone imder the moon at the south window. 
One autumn resembles another 


In the Liang dynasty, the poet Yu Chien-wu wrote gallant 
songs echomg those by the Emperor ^s son When the state 
was destroyed, Chien-wu took refuge in Kwei-chii before 
returning home. I feel sure that he left some works behmd, 
but of them no trace has been foimd. And so I have written a 
“Song of Retummg to Kwei-chi”, to mend his grief. 

The peppered mud- walls are yellow. 

Damp fire-flies swarm over the palaces of the Liangs. 

Once a tutor m the court of prmces, 

He dreams in his autumn bed of regal chariots of bronze. 

The fi-ost of Kwei-chi falls on my hair as I return, 

I shall grow old with the flag-leaves m the pond. 
Speechless, I have departed from all the world's glory 
The wandering courtier, even in poverty, remains loyal to 
the throne. 

^ A town m Chekiang 



During the Wei dynasty, the Emp^or Mingi gent his palace- 
officials westward with their chariots m order to bring back 
the Bronze God, who held a dew-plate ^ in his hands and who 
had been made by the Emperor Shao Wu® of Han to be placed 
before his palace. When these palace-officials removed the 
dew-plate, the Bronze God whose spirit was appointed from 
Heaven, burst into tears Li Ho, the descendant of the royal 
house of the T"ang dynasty, therefore writes a Song for the 
Bronze God in bidding farewell to the Han dynasty. 

Within the grave lies the King whom autumn winds have 
swept away 

At night his horse whinneys, but it vanishes again at dawn. 
Beyond the pamted galleries fragrance Imgers round branches 
of cassia. 

Within the thirty-six halls of the palace climbs the green moss. 

An officer of the new Empire turned his chariots here from 

When the sour melancholy wind from the East Gate struck 
my eyes, 

I, whom the ancient moon escorted, removed from the palace 

Thinking of the old Emperor, let fall tears of pure lead. 

Withered orchids scatter the highroad as the officer rides 

Heaven itself will wither m pity 

Alone beneath the desolate moon I depart wuth my dew-plate, 
Listen to the soft waves, and the faraway city near a river. 

second Emperor of the Wei dynasty (A D 227-239) 

* A plate which received the dew at dawn and sunset, those who bathed m the dew were 
beheved to become immortals 

* One of the last Emperors of the Han dynasty (r A D 189). 



Black clouds press on the city the city would seem to be 

Like golden scales our bright armour glitters in the sun 

The throbbing of horns spreads over the autumn-coloured sky. 

At night the ram-clouds grow thick and purple on the frontier. 

We reef up the scarlet flag before reaching the Yi River. 

The frost so heavy, the cold drum can hardly be heard* 

On a gold altar we will reward the Emperor for his confidence in 

Holdmg jade-dragon swords, we shall die for his Majesty 


On the taut silkspun strmgs of high autumn 
Clouds resound against the empty mountams. 

Like the daughters of Shao^ who wept among bamboos 
Or like the sad white girl who plucked the strmgs, 

So does Li P"ing play his harp through the country, 

Clean as split jade, soft as the bluebird's song. 

Sad as dew-drops on lotos-leaves, happy as fragrant orchids 
His song melts the ice on the twelve imperial gate 
His twenty-three strings move the heart of the 

Listen, from the stone-mended cliffs of Heaven which the 
goddess restored ^ 


1 The Emperor Shao (B C 235^7-22^^8) had two daughters, Wu Huang and Nu Ymg, 
and both at the same time became Empress and Consort of the Second Emperor Shun 
(B C 22 j 8~22 o 6) Their tear-drops fallmg on his grave on the island of Hsiang-shan 
on the Tung-t’mg Lake left speckled marks on the leaves of the bamboos growing there 
* In the beginning of the world the rebel prmce Kung Kung struck his head against the 
sky, breaking it The Empress Nu Kua restored it 


The stone broke again, the sky shuddered, autumn rains fell, 
But the harper walked in a dream to teach the old goddess 
on the mountam % 

Near the Abyss where ancient fish leap and gaunt dragons 

The unsleepmg listener leaned on a cinnamon bough 
And saw the feet of the dew climbing up the shivering 
Hare ^ 


Hungry and cold we stand below the city 
We watch the moon every night. 

The swords we have brought from home do not shine like 

The seawinds break our hair 

Long, long is the desert stretchmg to the edge of a white 

A splash of red — ^the flags of the Hans far away! 

In the blue tents we play on the slender flutes 
Fog and mist moisten our dragon flags. 

At sunset we stand on the city wall, 

Looking down towards the dim gate of the city. 

The wind blows and shakes the withered grasses. 

Within the city the lean horses whinney. 

Let us ask the officer who built this city 

How many thousands of miles we are from home. 

We grieve only when our hungry corpses are sent home: 
We do not regret falling by the sword. 

H e. tike moon. 



In the ancestral chest lies a watery sword, three feet long 
Once It followed and killc'd a dragon in the chasm of Wu. 

Like a slanting crescent moon seen ifirom a cave, the moon shaving 
the chill dews, 

Or like a stretched strip of satin, smooth, unruffled by the wind, 
The sheath like an old dragon ^s skm bristling with thorns 
The blade has absorbed seabird's oil, shines like a white bird's tail, 
This sword contains the whole heart of a hero 
Do not let its light be reflected on the print in the Sprmg Office 
Let there be tasselled silk twists and bright metals hangmg from it. 
Just the heavenly light from the sword can cut jade to pieces. 
When It was drawn, the White King of the West shuddered, ^ 
On the autumn pathways his ghostly mother wept at midnight. 


The Milky Way revolves at night among the floating stars. 

The clou^ wander by the Silver River and imitate the murmur 
of water. 

Within the Moon lies the Jade Palace, unfading flowers and 
cinnamon trees. 

The goddess with her headdress of silk plucks the fragrant grasses. 
The queen pulls up her curtains: in the north window it is dawn 
There is the bluebird on the tree in the small window 
The prince blows the long pipe of his flute, 

Then calls the dragon to plough the earth and plant holy grasses 
She wears a red gown; underneath there is a purple skirt, 

She gathers the flowers along green beaches, 

She points to the God of the Sun careering like a charger. 

The seadust below the Stone Mountain has only just been bom. 

^The commentators refer to the White Kmg who transformed himself mto a snake, 
but was killed by the Red Kmg. 



The southwind blows the mountains, the mountams become 

The King of the gods sends his servant to sweep up the sea 
When the peach-blossoms of the fairy-queen have reddened a 
thousand times 

How many deaths have the long-lived men died? 

The blue manes of the piebald horses are mottled with coins. 
Willows this sweet spring wave among whirling vapours 
The flute-player persuades me to drink wine from the gold 

Unless I calm my blood and soul, how shall I live^ 

I say to the general, it is not necessary to drmk too much, 

For naturally the hero cannot find his master m this world. 

Buy silk to embroider the clothes of Pm-yuan-chuan ^ 

All the wme we have, we can only sprmlde it on his earth. 

From the mouth of the Jade Toad* the water-clock humes time. 
The hair of the young dancer is too frail for the comb. 

I see the brow of autumn changmg into the freshest green: 

Why should the young man of twenty be always a slave? 


The courtiers Han Yu and Huang Pu-tzu came to my house 
and commanded me to wnte poetry. 

The bright silk trappmgs are omon-green. 

Gold rings hold down the saddle, shaking with sweet music ; 
The sound of the horses' hooves thunders m my ears. 

They enter the gate with the glory of a rambow. 

People say: Here comes the genius and the great writer 
from the East Capital, 

* A famous hero 

^ A fountain called the Jade Mouth which was used as a water-clock, 


And their breasts contain the twenty-eight stars of Heaven, 

Such honourable loyalty pierces the centre of their hearts. 

Their poetry written at Court sounds their names to the 
highest skies 

With tibeir pens they can mend the forgotten works of the 
Creator- Heaven ^s labour m vain! 

The student with the large eyebrows feels like a dry autumn 

But who knows, the dead grasses might meet a warm wind ? 

Droppmg my own wmgs, I climb on those of the great 

Though I am a serpent, I will not be ashamed of becoming a 


Riding a tiger this King rode through the eight Poles of 

The light of his sword lay on the sky the sky grew more deeply 

He heard the tinkle of glass as a god knocked on the Sun. 

Misfortunes fell away- history came to peace again. 

Now from the dragon-head wine flows for the wine-guests 

Like a lyre in a golden case playmg all night. 

So do the flutes seem to be blown by the falling rain of the 
Timg-t^ing Lake. 

In their drunkenness they call the moon to move away: 

Mountains of silver clouds shine on the glowing palace of jade. 

Now the gatekeeper says: “The first watch has come”. 

In pamted galleries flutes sound like the tender voices of birds • 

The delicate sea-yam^ is scented, is lummous and crystalline. 

The girls dance “the yellow goose is fallmg” and offer the King the 
wine of longevity. 

Fairy candles puff up little bright vapours 

The lyres sing sadly. From the drunken eyes of the girls flow hot 

An excee<iingly delicate silk which rtscriioies the skin of the smallest fishes. 




I mount the turret steps to welcome sprmg. New spring 

Dark yellow the willowhuds, the water-clock in the palace is slow. 
Faint spirals of mist sport and creep over the fields 
In this cold green a dark wind settles on the grassbeards. 

Asleep at dawn on the embroidered bed, cool is her amber skin. 
Her dewy face, not open, faces the mommg dusk. 

In the highroad the scarves of the willows may not yet be plucked 
Soon the knotted cords of the fiagleaves will fade 


Drink wine by the stream where you gather mulberries, 

Where dandelions grow and orchids are smiling. 

Fiagleaves like crossed swords wave in the scented air. 

Restlessly singing swallows complain of the intoxication of 

Green specks are seen m the lingering mist of grass curtains. 

With high-piliowed hair and a bird-tail of gold, she grieves for 
the evening clouds. 

On the swift steps of the wind she dances in her skirts of pearl. 

At the ferry she bids farewell and sings the “flowing river song^*. 

The spines of the wme-guests grow cold The South Moimtain is 


The East wind comes and spring fills our eyes. 

In the city of flowers the shaded willows grieve in earnest. 

In the deepest hall of the palace the wind sports among bamboos 
The new green dancmg skirts are clear as water. 

The bn^t wind stirs the grass for a thousand miles. 

A warm mist flaps the clouds firom heaven to earth. 


The slave-girls dressed for war^ carelessly pencil their eyebrows. 
Waving embroidered banners^ warm the imperial city. 

The floating scents of the winding river never return. 
Pear-blossoms fade. Autupnn comes to the Emperor's garden, 


Cool at dusk and dawn are the trees on the earth 
In depths of green a thousand mountams hover beneath the clouds. 
The famt-scented ram falls among evil mists 
Teeming leaves and round flowers shine on the curved garden 

In the stone ponds the water shakes off leisurely green ripples. 
So heavy is this summer the blossoms are not surprised to fall. 
Faded red flowers on the earth glow m the shade of the trees, 


Engravings of jade decorate the Imtel over the curtain. 
Thin gauze curtams fill the empty door. 

We draw from the well water bright as lead. 

Fans are decorated with ducks and drakes 
Snowy skirts dance through the cool palace halls. 

Sweet dews wash the blue sky. 

Silk sleeves hover m the wmd 

The precious com smells sweet as sweat. 


Now the people cut the unbaled silks, 

Now they split the speckled bamboos. 

Wearmg frost-coloured silks, we he on bamboo mats cool as 
autumn jade. 

A flame-red mirror opens on the East, 

A vertiginous cartwheel forever climbing upwards, 

Comes the Red Emperor ndmg on a hummmg Dragon ® 

^ Camp-followers 

* Red was a predominant colour in the T’ang dynasty The horses’ manes were dyed red, 
and so were many flags — Whence the banners warmmg the city 

® The first verse descnbes the people, the second contains three apostrophes to the sun 



The stars near the Milky Way grow cold: 

The bubbles of dew on the dewplat^ are round 
Pretty flowers shoot from the ends of twigs, 

Fadmg grasses gneve m the empty garden. 

The night sky is paved with jade. 

The leaves in the lotos pond are like green coins 

She only regrets because her dancing skirt is too thin 
She feels faintly cold on her bamboo mat woven with flowers 
How swiftly the mornmg wmd sweeps away* 

The Great Bear glitters and curves down the sky. 


All through the long night the young widow mourns. 
The lonely wanderer dreams of retummg home. 

The spider in the eaves spins out its silk 
Near the wall the hangiug lamp bursts mto flower 
Beyond the curtain the moon shines to brightness 
Easily now fall the flymg dews, 

Making more lovely the lotos petals in the pool. 


In the summer palace the fireflies have lost their way. The sky 
is like water. 

The bamboos are yellow, the pond cold, the water-lilies dead. 

Speechless the moon shines on the gold rmgs of the gate 

Beyond the cool courtyard and the empty hall lies a white sky. 

Brocades of dappled emerald are piled on the road 

The cock-herald crows^ no more, dawn flows like diamonds and 

Above the gold well croaks a raven. The leaves of the plane-tree 

* Tbe codc-herald was a palace servant who announced the coming of dawn* 



It is difficult to pour from the silver arrow-mouth of the jade 
beaker ^ 

The flowers of the lamp laugh at the gathenng darkness 
Broken slivers of frost slant down the silk curtains. 

A pair of dragon-painted candles light up the lady's high chamber. 
Beneath a curtam of pearls she sleeps, grieves, unable to sleep. 
Beneath a dress embroidered with gold phoenixes her body feels 

Her long curved brows vie with the crescent moon 


The walls of the palace city lie chill in the winter light. 

The white and broken sky drips in snowflakes 
Ring the bells * Drink to the fill wine reserved for a thousand days ^ 
Wine will conquer the cold^ A cup for the king's longevity ^ 
Royal moats and fountains are frozen with white rings 
O where is the well of fire, where are the warm springs'^ 


A faint red glow is shed by the feet of the sun 

The rime no longer melts under the branches of cinnamon. 

Rare warm airs try to drive away the wmter 

The long nights will end, the long days begin. 

all translated bj Ho Chib’fuan 

^ The commentators explam that the mouth of the beaker was shaped to resemble an 




He was a native Lojan^^ who graduated around 830 and rose to be 
secretarj of the Grand Council. He is sometimes called *^Little to 
distinguish him from Tu Fu. 


Love assumes the coolness of unlove, 

But at a farewell feast our smiles fail. 

Even the wax candle feels our sorrow, 

And at night sheds tears m honour of our separation 


On the silk curtain the slanting sun suggests approaching evening 
Companionless in the royal chamber I shed tears 
In the solitude of the empty courtyard spring comes to an end 
The doors are closed: there are pear-blossoms scattered over 
the earth, 


Year after year I linger round gold rivers and jade gates. 

Morning after morning I set off with hooked knife and horse- 

The whiteness of mid-spring snow melts in the greenness of 
wild graves, 

And the long stretched yellow river flows eternally round the 
black mountain. 


By Red Bridge grass and flowers overgrow a wilderness, 

At the entrance of Black Cloth Lane the sun is slantmg again 
Once the swallows nested m the houses of the Wang and Hsieh 

Which nowadays fly to the houses of ordinary people. 



I roamed with wine along the lakes and rivers, 

There was always the slim, waist of a Hunan girl in my arms 
From this dream of ten years ^ wastefulness in Yangchow, 

I awake, and there is nothing but regret for my unfaithfulness 


The splendid glories of the past 
Have been scattered in fragrant dust: 

The stream flows unconsciously, 

The grass of spring flourishes 

At sunset blows the east wind, 

And the birds are lamentmg, 

While the falling petals recall 
A girl throwmg herself from a tower. 


For thousands of miles the nightmgale sings: 

The green mirror turns red: 

Villages by the river^ city walls on the hills — 

Comes the clatter of the wme-shop boards 

In the south dynasty there are four hundred and eighty temples 

So many balcomes lurking in the smoky ram I 


Smoke- veiled chill waters, moon veilmg the sands^ 

We anchored at Chien-wei river hard by some wineshops. 

The dancmg-girls did not know the bitterness of our defeats. 
They were singmg “The Flower in the Garden” on the further bank. 


Dim the mountains, far away the waters: 

Autumn came stealing without withermg the south grasses 
The moon shored up the twenty-four bridges. 

Where is the sweet girl who taught me to play the flute? 

the last three poem translated bj Yuan K*o-chia 




He was born in Honei in Honan^ the son oj a distinguished scholar, and 
became a chin-shih in 83J, His fame as a scholar preceded his fame as a 
poet, which explains perhaps his constant obsession with classical 
allusions There was a time when his fame was so great that the daughter 
of a high state official was given to him in marriage simpljr in honour 
of his scholarship 

He occupied many important (fficial posts, and was governor of mariy 
towns, and reader in the Hanlin College He wrote funeral elegies, 
was a friend of Wen Ving-jun and seems to have been the first to 
develop the s^le which was associated with his name — a fantasticallj 
accurate and evocate use of ancient rnythology and a strange sensuousness 


So difficult the meeting, so difficult the parting: 

When the east wind dies, all the flowers wither. 

The silkworm dies because she is spinning, 

The candle tears are dry only when she is ashes. 

Looking m the mommg mirror, I am afraid of the changing 
colour of my hair. 

The voice m the night feels cool moonlight. 

The way is not far to Peng-lai ^ 

O blue bird, visit her oftener for my sakel 


You ask when I shall return ; there is no knowing. 

Night rain on Pa-shan floods the autumn pools. 

Some day we shall trim the wick beneath the west window: 
ril tell you what it was like — ^Pa-shan — ^the night ram falling. 

j ^ Hie feiiy moimtain m the eastcni seas, the home of the immortals, 



I wonder why the inlaid psaltery has fifty strings^ 

Every string and peg evokes the beautiful years 
Dawn-dreaming Chuang-tzu, the hovermg butterfly; 

In spring the Emperor's heart haunting the cuckoos, 
Moonlight in the blue sea, pearls sheddmg tears, 

In the warm sun the jade m the blue fields engendermg 
smoke — 

So should our loves endure, being filled with memory; 
But already these days are fading into the years. i 


Beyond the seas they say there is another earth. 

Is there only one life? Only this one exists 
Will the tiger-guards be heard, beatmg their bamboo rods? 
Will they return — ^those watchers of the palace water- 

On the day when six regiments mutinied, their horses 
pawing the earth. 

Did tihie herd-boy smile at their seventh night vows? 

The Emperor who reigned for half a century 
Could not like the Lu boy have his darling Mo-tzu ^ 

^ Li Shang-ym is tenuous and recondite nearly every poem needs a long commentary 
Chuang-Uu is, of course, the famous philosopher who dreamed he was a butterfly The 
soul of the Emperor Wu returned in the shape of a cuckoo The “pearls shedding tears” 
may refer to mermaids — ^in the outer southern seas there are mermaids who can weave 
under the sea and whose tears are pearls” Huai Nan-tzu claimed that pearls wax and wane 
with the moon The legend of the Blue Fields may refer to the poor man who planted 
jade which flowered, ate the fruit and with it won the beautiful lady it may, and more 
probably has, an evasive sexual meanmg No one quite knows what the poem is about, 
and wiiat the inlaid psaltery represents, but there is, at least m the ongmal, an 
extraordmaiy effect of a stream of images which dissolve into one another and gam 
bnghtness from their dissolution. In Chinese the poem is sharp-edged as well as bemg 
pleasantly obscure, 

* Ma Wei was the scene of the murder of Yang Kuei-fei, to whom previously on the 
seventh night of the seventh moon the Emperor Mmg Huang had vowed eternal devotion 
The Herd-boy is a star Lu and Mo-tzu were the types of devoted lovers 



From their high pillared halls the guests have flown: 
In the small garden the leaves ^re whirlmg, 
Thick-falling on the winding paths, 

In long parade makmg bright the sun. 

I cannot sweep these petals — ^my heart is broken — 
The fewer flowers remain the more I see them. 

Have their fragrant souls surrendered to the spring? 
Nothmg remains Tears fall on my garment 


Feeling fretful towards evening, 

I drove my chariot to the Lo-yu tombs, 
How infimtely lovely was the settmg sun — 
Only It IS so near the yellow dusk^ 


Coming IS an empty word, going leaves no trace: 

The moon hangs aslant over the roofbeams — oh, the evening 

A dream has difficult names for a long departure: 

The letters are hurried though the ink is not black enough. 
Candles shine over a halF-mche of gold emeralds, 

And embalmed incense steals over the embroidered rose. 
The love-lorn knight hates the long journeys of fairyland. 
Yet how much farther away with each step he goes. 



He was the last oj the emperors of the Southern Tang djnas^y and 
easilj the greatest of the imperial poets In 961 he succeeded his father 
Li thing y but the Sung Emperor was already established and he reigned 
with the greatest dificuly In 975 the Sung Emperor sent an embasy to 
demand his subjectiony which he offered with good graccy resigning from 
the throne and living for the rest of his life imprisoned in his palace. 
He had sent his favourite minister Hsu Hsuan to explain his conduct to 
the Emperor “He really regards Your Majesy as a fatherly Hsu Hsuan 
explainedy “and Your Majesty may well therfore leave him in peace^* 
“Sons do not separate from their fathers” y the Emperor answered , “and 
do you think I shall allow another man to snore alongside my bed?” 
He complains bitterly against his imprisonment and the loss of his 
imperial titles in his poemSy which found their way to all corners of 
China; but the complaints were hardly more than personal y he bad few 
followerSy and he prfferred the compaiy of Buddhist monksy painters 
and musicians to the company of courtiers He had extraordinarily 
handsome featureSy he was elegant and suffered from the disease so 
common in China of living in a remote golden past. By the Sung 
Emperor he was given the title of Fate Resisting MarquiSy but when one 
line of one (f his short poems was thought to be a demand for assistance 
^rom the lyal followers of the Tang dynasty the Emperor had no 
hesitation in having him poisoned. He died on the seventh day of the 
seventh moony at the age of fory -two. 

Known sometimes as Li Ho Cbouy and Prince (f Wuy he ypifies the 
end of the Tang dynasy in his poety much as Liu Pang ypifies the 
beginning of the Han <fynasy He was an accomplished scholary 
musician and painter as well as a poet. There are moments when he 
seems to share the emotions <f Nalan Hsintehy the Manchu whose poetry 
breathes the same atmosphere of remoteness and decadence; but Li Yu 
IS iifinitely more profoundy and uses words with a more subtle evocative 
cutinmg. He will use the simplest words and charge them with tremendous 
emotional effect. On^ about thiry of his poems have been handed down, 
but each <f them is masterly. He was the last ruler <f the short-lived 


southern T*ang djnas^y which was later incorporated in the Sung 
Empire^ but his tragic death and the faint listeria (f his poetrj have 
given him a place in poetrj far higher than aij he reached in histojj 


Silent and alone I climb the west tower. 

The moon is like a hook. 

Desolate wu-t'ung trees in the shady courtyard imprison 
clear autumn 

Cut, and not severed. 

Disentangled, not unravelled: 

The sorrow of parting 

Is a strange and unknown flavour m the heart. 


The flowers of the wood have lost their spring redness 
In too great haste: 

How can they endure cold morning rams, evening wmds? 
Tears of rouge, 

So many drinkmg companions, 

When Avill they return? 

Interminable sorrow like a nver flowing east. 


One range of mountains. 

Two ranges of mountains, 

The mountains far, the sky high, the misty water cold. 

My deepest thoughts have reddened the maple leaves. 

Chrysanthemiims blossom, 

Chrysanthemums fade, 

The wild geese fly high, the traveller has not returned. 
The wind and moon hover on the bamboo screen. 



The jfragrance fades from lotoses, emerald leaves wither, 
The sorrows of the west wind are scattered among green 

The light of all things fades with the passmg of years. 

I cannot endure to see it. » 

With silk rain my dreams hover on the border of cockcrow ^ 
Cold IS this small tower playing through a jade flute.® 
Endless sorrow flows down widi pearl tears. 

Silently I lean on my balcony. 


Since we parted, sprmg is half over 

Everythmg I see is filled with sorrow 

Below the steps plum-blossom whirl in the snowflakes. 

No sooner brushed away, then I am buried again. 

The wild geese have brought no news of home. 

The roads are long, my dreams are thinnmg out 
Sickness for home is like the grass in spring* 

The farther you travel, the thicker it grows. 

^ Sometimes attnbuted to the Emperor Li Chm (916-961), the second sovereign of the 
Southern T*ang dynasty, who m 9^8 surrendered all his territory north of the Yai^e 
nver and m 960 transferred his allegiance to Chao Kuang-ym, the founder of the Sung 

* In the ongmal Little tower pitted through jade fiute cold No one has ever been able to 
make sure whether “the jade 0ute" is playmg through “the httle tower” or whether “the 
little tower^ is playmg through “the jade flute*. Nor has anyone ever been able to discover 
what IS cold — the flute, the tower the poet, the autumn or the courtyard with the 



South of the mer, north of the river lies my native land: 

For thirty years my life passed in a dream. 

Henceforward the palaces and pleasaunces of Wu shall be 

Terraces and halls of Kuang-lmg shall be wild and forlorn 

Clouds enshroud the distant summits like a thousand foils 
of sorrow ; 

The ram beats on the boat like a myriad filaments of tears. 

There is left only my three brothers and I and three 
himdred kinsmen 

Unbearable to sit here, brooding over such small things! 


Before the pavilion spring hastens the red flowers 
Delicately tihey dance to and fro. 

The small rain gently falls. 

So for a while I relax my knitted brows. 

The green leafy wnndow is forlorn of her sweet voice: 
Her fragrant body has become slime and ashes. 

My heart is full of irremediable thoughts. 

Drowsily I fall in a dream. 


Weariness has aggravated since the year: 

Desolation has augmented my despair. 

A ruthless winds cuts my ailing bones, 

The misty rain chokes my melancholy heart. 

At night the incense tnpod is used to simmer herbs: 
In the morning I find there is frost on half my beard. 
Where are the affinities of old? 

Who would ask now about the dethroned king? 



Spring blossoms, autu]|;nn moons, will you never cease 
to come? 

O what immeasurable memories * 

Last night when the east wmd again blew through my 
towered chamber, 

How imbearable to see the ghosts of lost fongdoms in the 

The caived balustrades, the marble steps must still be there: 
What has changed only is their delightful youth! 

Tell me, has anyone suffered such vast woes as mine, 
Endless as a river in spring which forever flows to the east. 



An angel enclosed m paradise. 

There m her room, hushed with silence, she sleeps at noon. 
With jade trinkets and cloudy hair flimg over the pillow, 
Her embroidered gown suffusmg exotic fragrance. 

I enter stealthily, but the tinkling of my jade ornaments 
Awakens her from her dream of two love-birds. 

Slowly her face becomes gracious with smiles 
She gazes in my eyes with infinite gentleness. 


The past only to be lamented. 

The present so hard to expel! 

Autumn winds crowdmg the courtyard and porches. 
Lichens mvading the stone steps: 

As usual the pearly screen remains unrolled — 

All through the day will anyone come? 


The gold sword is buned deep m the earth, 

The dauntless spuit quails like the fields of autumn. 

Cold night, the moon blossommg in the clear sky: 

I dream of how the Ching Huai river reflects m vain 
Shadows of marble towers and jasper palaces 


For forty years my country and my home — 

Three thousand li of mountains and nvers. 

The Phoenix Pavilion and Dragon Tower reaching up to 
the Milky Way, 

Jade trees and jasper branches formmg a cloudy net — 

Not once did I touch sword or spear! 

Suddenly I became a captive slave. 

Frail my waist, grey my temples, grinding away 
Never shall I forget the day when I bade hasty farewell at 
the ancestral temple. 

The court musicians played the farewell songs. 

My tears streamed as I gazed at the court maidens, 

Foam resembling a thousand drifts of snow. 

Soundless, the peach and pear trees from their battalions 
of spring. 

With one jug of wine 
And a fishhig-lme. 

On this earth how many are as happy as me? 

I dip the oar — the spring winds the boat drifts like a leaf. 

A delicate hook on the end of a silk tassel, 

An island covered with flowers, 

A jugful of wine. 

Among the ten thousand waves I wander in freedom! 

all translated bj Hsiung Ting 

^ Li Yu IS lamenting his own palaces and lost kmgdoms, but memtably he is also lamenting 
^ palaces of others’ there is a temhle melandioly m the ongmal» but the meliicholy 
is not n^:essaiily directed to himself. One line m “spring Blossom^ may have caused his 
^death — ^Last ni^t when the east wmd. agam blew through my towered dhambex^ was 
thought by Chao Kuang-yin to be a presage of rebellion, the east wmda messeoger or a spy. 



960-1 2y 8 



Like Wang Wei and a host of other poets he was a painter as well as a 
poet his paintings oj bamboos have a studied precision and an almost 
buddhist immersion into the spirit oJ the leaves^ which seem to stir and 
tremble as we look at them. too, in his poetry there is a curious 
coiiformi^ (which comes from his Corfucian ancestry) and a breathless 
depth (which comes from his understanding of taoism and buddhism) 
He was the complete scholar and idie pefect dilettante, the most 
amazing of all the Sung poets in his eforts to probe the secrets of the 
universe The Sung dynas^ showed a tougher metal than the Vang 
The age of glory and glittering colour had passed, all poets were 
philosophers now. And Su Tung-p^o, who probed everything with a keen 
analytical mind and at the same time, by some miracle (f accomplished 
purpose, entered into the heart of things, was a philosopher even bfore 
he was a poet 

He was born in Meichou in Szechuan, the son of a scholarly father 
who rose to high ofice in the state, and of a mother who trained him 
m an understanding (f the classics. The whole family was bewilderingly 
brilliant both his brother and sister attained considerable literary fame 
He was taught by a taoist priest He came under the influence (f 
Ouyang Hsiu, who later brought him to the attention of the Emperor 
From the veiy beginning he was marked out for important posts. He was 
appointed to the commission which examined the innovations of Wang 
An-shih, on whom he reported urfavourahly, with the result that he 
was compelled to withdraw to Hangchow. In WJ4 he took Chao Yun 
as his mistress, and lived with her contentedly until her death twen^ 
years later, he celebrated her in many of his poems. In IO80, after 
being imprisoned on trumped-up charges, he was banished to Huang- 
chou, in Hopei , he built himself a hut on the Timg-p'o or eastern slope 
<f a hill, and afterwards assumed these two words as his hao or f any 
name. Here he lived placid^ and quietly almost forgotten by the world 
until ike death of Wang An-shih in 1086 brought about his return to 
the Capital, a favourite (f the Empress Dowager, who had always 
admired his genius since the day of has appointment to the Han-lm 


College more than thir^jears h^ore With her own hands the Empress 
served him with tea and ordered him to be escorted home at night hj 
ladies gf the palace with Jlaming torches Two jears later he went to 
live at Hangchow y where he built djkes and pagodas^ and planted 
trees, around the West Lake which has ever since been inseparablj 
connected with his name For a while he returned to the capital, and for 
a few months he occupied the supreme^' important post of President of 
the Board cf Rites /but his ironj, and sometimes his sarcasm, made him 
enemies, and once again he was^ banished — this time to the relativelj 
unimportant post of magistrate at Ting-chou in Chihli. In 10 p 4 he 
was banished again to Kwangtung, and three jears later he was bamshed 
still further from the Capital to the island cf Hainan Then graduallj, 
and step bj step, he was allowed to proceed closer to the centre f things^ 
In IlOO he was pardoned and allowed to return to Kwangtung, shortlj 
afterwards he was allowed to enter Hunan, and then once again he was 
appointed to high position bj the Emperor Hui Tsung, but died shortlj 
cfterwards at Ch'ang-chou in Kiangsu. in 123S his tablet was placed 
m the Corfucian temple, but for some odd reason it was removed in 1845 
apparentlj on the grounds that “Ae had never advanced Corfucianism 
m the sense necessarj to merit this honouF\ 

It was (f course partlj true He was far too intelligent, and far 
too great a poet, to surrender entire^ to tAe inflexible rules of the Con- 
fuaan canon. Once he said *^The fullness f the moon and the calmness 
f the river are refected in me”. But the river and the moon are continuallj 
changing, and he was plagued with a feeling for the impermanence of 
Ife. When his mistress died, he recorded that her last words were taken 
from the Diamond Sutra. 

Like a dream, like a vision, like a bubble, 

Like a shadow, hke dew, like lightning, 

and th^ maj well have been his own. Chao Yun died in the buddhast 
faith, but his own faith was too complex: he was a taoist as well as a 
buddhist, and above all he retained a haf -amused allegiance to Corfucian 
doctrine He liked watching others drink, but drank hmsef only in 
moderation, explaining that *^the attributes f drunkenness are not in 
keeping with a gentleman^. He had something of Po Chu-is sense of 
morally f things, and something of Tao Yuan-ming^s delight in a 
countij heritage, but he admitted that *^wine is the law f man*s Ife”. 
As a poet he stands in the vejfrst rank, and nothing could be more 
erroneous than Mr. Arthur Wal^*s statement that his poetry is "^almost 
wholly a patchwork f earlier poems^. His poetj, according to the 


Chinese^ is marked bj the qualities of the poet, and those qualities were 
whollj singular and could have come from no one else. His greatness 
lies where the greatness of iJie Sung djnas^ poetrj lies — in a deeper 
penetration, a more sufficient philosophy, a calmer and more enquiring 
passion Where Tang rises. Sung probes deep. Where Tang is all 
colour and vigour — so that there are moments when the whole of Tang 
seems to be represented bj the famous chargers ridden bj Tai Tsung, the 
founder of the djnas^ — Sung is as resilient and meditative as Su 
Tung-po^s own paintings of bamboos, which have their roots m the 
earth It would be a mistake to underestimate Su’s poetrj He has a 
considered gravij and a depth of feeling which are foreign to his Tang 
predecessors, but there are times when he rises above them, forms new 
worlds of the imagination and wanders through entirelj new landscapes 


Eastward runs the Great River 

Whose waves have washed away 

All the talented and courteous men in history. 

West of the old fort, they say, there lies Red Cliff 
Where Chou, the young general m the time of the Three 

Defeated the enemy 

Broken rocks pierce the clouds. 

Thundering billows dash on the shore, 

Rollmg up thousands of flakes of snow 
What a picture of nvers and mountains ^ 

How many heroes there were at that time^ 

I cannot help thinking of the day 

When Kung-chhn first married Hsiao Ch'iao, 

And with a bright warhke air, 

A feather fan m his hand, a blue turban on his head. 
Annihilated m the midst of his talk and laughter 
The strong enemy who vanished like smoke and dust. 
Travelling through the ancient kingdom m my imagination, 
I should be laugjb.ed at for such sentiments. 

Turning my hair grey so early. 

Life is a dream. Therefore to the river and the moon, 

I sprinkle this bottle of wme! 

28 j 


Soft are the clouds, and the moon is weak. 

At the second watch I wake up from my drunken stupor — 
It was the moment when the boat was cast off. 

Looking back, I see only the lonely city 
Buried in grey mist. 

I can remember the time of singing, 

But of the time of retummg, I can remember nothing at all 

My hat is askew, my fan fallen from my hands* 

Slippery is this couch of creepers. 

There is no one to whom I can tell 
My solitary dream. 

When shall I cease floatmg'^ 

My home is in the south-west — 

But I am always journeying to the north-east ^ 


The endless blue mountains disperse, 

Nor can they assemble together ; 

The waves roll, the clouds continually running 
Huddle into the screen beside the wmdow. 

Therefore pour out your eyes, 

Define the limits of your vision; 

Havmg this, you will not be poorer 
Than a man who rules a dukedom. 



The wild birds on the roof are bitterly complaining to 

Suddenly ripples appear in the ice-pool m front of the 
balustrade : 

I am becommg old, and increasmgly more tired 

Of getting drunk m the company of those with red skirts. 

Rising from my sick-bed, in vain I am surprised 

That all my hair has freshly turned white 

Lymg on this couch, I hear the drum and horn of His 

Therefore I bid my boys prepare my hat and dress. 

Passmg through the winding verandah and coming out in 
the arbour. 

And leaving behind me this terribly pressmg cold — 

I find, ah what a boundless spnng in the savage plain * 


The flowers have lost their withered red. 

Small are the green apricots. 

When the swallows come and fly, 

The cottages are ringed round by blue streams 
Blown by the wmd, the catkins are made small, 
O where can I not find fragrant grass 
In this boundless earths 

There is a swing within the walls. 

And beyond there is a path: 

Someone is walking outside, 

And inside a lovely girl is laughing. 

Gradually the sound of laughter is no more, 
And the lover is vexed by the cold! 


Human aiBFairs are dreams 
Mortal life endures but a few autumns. 
When the mght falls on the verandah, 
Leaves are already rustlmg m the wuid 
Gaze at my eyebrows and my hair. 


When vrnie is cheap I am always sorry 
That my guests are too few. 

When the moon is full I regret 
That she is often hidden by clouds. 
Who will enjoy with me 
The solitary night of mid-autumn? 
Holding up my cup to Heaven, 

I look grievously towards the north. 


Here are green tiles and scarlet balustrades, 

From a distance a temple which looks adorable. 

Then pause for a moment and gaze earnestly upon it — 
It will save you the trouble of looking back. 

Turning and twistmg your head a hundred times. 

The river smks low, rocks emerge. 

Dust whirls high, the towers are hidden. 

Do not roar, do not roar against the wmd. 

The echo will be dispersed in the far-away distance. 
Beyond your power to recall 



My mind is worn out, my features grown sharp and gaunt’ 
You would hardly recognise me but for my old accent 
Where is our home — I am thinking about it all night 
In my declining age I know why you have come 

Afraid of strangers, I would sit in idiot silence. 

Then, enquinng about old friends, I cry in surprise 
That since half of them are dead, only half survive 

The dream vanishes The rain no longer falls. 

I am awake now from my drunken stupor. 

I look with the smile at a hungry mouse 
Climbing up the stand of my oiHamp. 


Reaching home, having retired from oIEcial service, 

You have shed all your burdens from your shoulders. 

What you once possessed has mostly worn away. 

What remains is merely your refined gaiety. 

Once you asked long leave to eat the water-plant shun 
Not long ago you composed a poem m praise of your mistress. 
You do not pray, but you are always sane and comfortable, 
For you were bom healthy, predestmed to a long life 
You have tried to hide your writogs from the world, 

Yet your fame in poetry can hardly be concealed. 

You fill your cup, roses grow on your cheeks: 

You carve your verse, it acquires a perfect harmony. 

As you choose to hve in a snaiTs shell. 

Your mind is easy, your heart released. 

Despite your age, your eyes are keen and bright 
So you can write characters as small as a fly's head. 


O, you ought to smile that you 

Have passed so successfully through all these ups-and 

As for me, I, too, am calm 

Whether in favour or disgrace. 

Countmg the days on my fingers I am afraid 
That the east wind will not linger long. 

The cuckoo is about to sing the sprmg away*. 


Livmg water should be cooked 
With livmg fire. 

I go to the rock where once I fished, 

Myself drawmg up the limpidity of the pool 
I keep a gourd vessel in the store: 

The moon is kept m a jar 
I shce the river with a ladle: 

The river is kept in a jug. 

The snowy milk has risen 

From the bottom, where it was boiled. 

Suddenly the wind is heard 

Pouring through the pme forest. 

It is hard to prevent my withered tongue 
From drammg three full cups. 

Sitting idly, I listen to the watches 
Beating m the deserted town. 


I am old, sick and lonely. 

I make my home on East Slope. 

White, sparse and unkempt 
My beard mingles with the wind. 

Often my little boy is delightfully astonished 
To find roses on my cheefe. 

How should he know, I smile. 

That they are the redness of wine, 



Dnnking on East Slope at night, 

I am tipsy and sober. 

It must be the third watch, 

When I reach home. 

My boy snores like thunder: 

No one answers my knock. 

Leaning on my staff, 

I listen to the nver. 

Always do I regret 
That my being is not mine. 

When shall I not remember 
To hurry about after nothmg? 

In deep night the wind slumbers. 

The white silk lies flat. 

Soon the little boat will float away, 

The rest of its life spent m nvers and seas. 

Away and away 

We have been sundered for ten years* 

There is one living and one dead. 

Even if I try, 

I cannot forget her. 

Her lonely grave a thousand miles away. 
Where shall I find her 
And tell her of my solitude? 

O, but she would not recognise me 
Even if we met, 

For my hair is covered with frost 
And my face vsdth dust. 

Tonight when I came home. 

In my melancholy dream, 

I saw her dressing her hair 
Under the small vsrindow. 


We looked at each other m silence. 
Tears overflowed down our cheeks. 
It seems to me that the place 
Where my heart breaks each year 
Is the pme-ridge 
On a moonlight night. 


When will the bright moon come, 

I ask the blue sky, 

With a wine-cup held in my hand? 

I do not know 
What year this is 

According to the calendar of those who live 
In the Palace of Heaven. 

In spite of my desire to return 
By ridmg the wmd, 

I fear I shall never be able to bear 
The cold in those high jade towers. 

So I rise to dance 

With my light shadow 

Am I living in this mortal worlds 

Stepping round the red pavilion, 

Stoopmg to peer through the embroidered door. 

The moon shines on the one 
Who cannot fall asleep. 

There shouldh^t be any worries 

Why is she always full 

When men are separated from one another? 

Men have sorrows and joys, partmgs and meetings. 

But the moon may be dull or clear, or full or on the wane. 
There has never been constancy in this. 

I only wish that men might live long, 

That they may enjoy the same milk colour of the moon. 
Even though separated by a thousand miles. 



So the fisherman goes to his drink 
And enters the ale-house, 

And at the same time orders 
Fish and crabs. 

As for wme, he asks only enough 
To mtoxicate himself: , 

He does not enquire of the cost 

The fisherman gets drunk, 

Dances in his grass coat, 

Tries to find his way home. 

He allows the short oars to cross. 
And the boat to float 
And when he wakes up 
He has no idea where he is 

He wakes up at noon, 

And diere on the nver his dream 
Breaks to pieces in this spnng 
Among falling blossoms 
And flying cations. 

Sober yet drunk, drunk yet sober, 
He laughs at mortality — 

All that is ancient and new. 



Over the melancholy river thousands of peaks are folded. 
The emerald stored m the empty sky resembles clouds and 

How far away is the smoke? How far the clouds'? 

We know nothing but that the peaks remain 
When the smoke vanishes and the clouds disperse. 


The valley is darkened by the rich leaves on the cliffs 
Out of the valley there come down a hundred streams — 
They nng round the wood, twining the rocks together, 

And after incessantly bemg lost and coming to light again. 
Finally flow into a smgle torrent at the gorge. 

Then the water is qmet: the mountains stand apart 
At the foot of a broken hill covered with briars 
A peasant ale-house looks out over a tiny bridge: 

A wanderer is slowly pacing among the stately trees, 

A little fishmg boat is bobbmg on the river 
Which has swallowed up the whole sky 

Ah, where did you get that pamtmg 
Decorated with splashes and stipples, 

Shot with such rich, bright colours? 

I want to know where this place is. 

For I have the greatest desire to go there 
And buy two acres of land. 

Do you not know, at a quiet place m Fan-k^ou, 
f, Su Tung-p'o, lived for five years? 

Spring win^ were swongmg the river under a silent sky, 
Evening clouds rolled up the rain among desirable 

The crows fluttered amid scarlet maples or slept by the water. 
And the snow fallmg on tall pmes awakened me firom a 
noon drowse. 

The stream loaded with peach-blossom was of this world, 
But why are all these people fames — the people 
Discovered by the Wu-ling fisherman on leaving his boat?i 
In spite of the river, the mountains, the blue sky, 

I after all live on this secular earth. 

I am prevented by my fate to find out 
The way leadmg into that fairyland. 

I return you this paintmg with a deep sigh, 

But I expect my old acquaintance m the mountains 
To write me a poem calling me to return. 

all translated bj Yu Mm-chuan 
* See the prose fiagment by Tao Yoan-ndng' Tie feaeb-hhasam foimtam 



Endlessly, endlessly on the vast lake grow the water-cresses: 
Night winds and dews are scented with the perfume of lotoses. 
Gradually a lantern-light in a distant temple comes mto view. 
Let us wait and watch the lake's glimmer when the moon is 


Written for his brother Su Che (A.D 1039-1112) who was 
serving a sentence in jail because he opposed the innovations of 
Wang An-shih. Su Tung-p'o was afraid that his younger brother, 
who was also a poet of considerable accomphshment, would die 
as a result of his hardships 

By the love of the heavenly Emperor all things grow as in 

But I, a small official, have invited rum through my ignorance 
I will be free of a great debt before I am a hundred years old , 
The ten helpless ones surviving m my family will be a burden 
to others 

Good only are the green hills here for burying my bones: 
There will be sad memories on rainy nights to come 
Would that you and I could be brothers for all ages, 

Continuing our broken brotherhood m a life to come! 

translated by Yang Chi-sing 



In 208 A D a famous battle was fought at Red CliflF, near Hsia-k’ou m Hupeh. 
The battle is recounted at length in the famous novel San kuo duhjen 2, known 
familiarly as The Three Kingdoms Here Chou Yu, “the young general” of the 
poem — ^he was only 34 — ^inflicted a disastrous defeat on the navy of Ts’ao 
Ts*ao, whose war vessels were said to stretch for a thousand li and whose forces 
were said to number more than 800,000 Against these Chou Yu possessed only 
30,000 men 

The defeat was inflicted by a stratagem A great number of war-vessels covered 
with black oiled cloth were collected together, filled with dry reeds and fuel, 
and covered with sulphur, saltpetre and whatever else mflammable was 
obtainable at the time In the prows were hoisted “fang-shaped” dragon flags 
A letter was thereupon sent to Ts’ao Ts’ao offermg to surrender, and saying 
that the embassies would travel on gram-ships due to sail down-nver Ts’ao 
Ts*ao promised to accept the embassies, and shortly afterwards the gram- 
ships sailed down-river. When they reached Ts’ao Ts’ao’s navy, they began to 
bum, setting fire to all his ships, bummg to death nearly every man on them, 
and all the horses, and leavmg a red mark on the cliffs from the smoke and 
burning which was visible eight hundred years later when Su T’ung-po visited 
the place 


He was a poet oj the southern Sung djnas^ rememb^edfor his striving 
after the perfect line. A contemporaij poet Huang Ting-Chien (A D. 
1050-1 110) said of him ^In order to obtain a good line^ he will shut 
himself up in a room”. 


It IS when we are near the end of a book that we enjoy it: 
Guests whom we anxiously expect often fail to come. 

So the world runs always contrary to our wishes 
How rarely in a hundred years do we open our hearts ^ 


IO8I-C. 1140 

The most famous and the most accomplished (f Chinese women poets. 
Her father was a Ifelong friend of Su Tung-p*o, The greater part <f her 
poetij was written after the death of her husband. 


Who sits alone by the bright window? 

My shadow and I, only we two. 

But the lamp bums out. there is darkness 
Even my shadow forsakes me. 

Alas, alas^ 

I am forlorn! 


The fragrance of the pink lotos fails, the jade mat hints of 

Softly I unfasten my silk cloak, 

And enter the boat alone. 

Who is sendmg a letter from among the clouds? 

When the swan message returns, the balcony is flooded with 

The blossoms drift on, the water flows 
There is the same yearning of the heart. 

But it abides m two places. 

There is no way to drive away this yearning: 

Driven from the eyebrows,^ 

It enters the heart. 

^ Hie e}rebzt>ws knit together m sorrow The jpoem refers^ like so many of her poems, 
to Uie death of her husWd. 



To the Tune of 

Intoxicated ^ the Shadow oj Flowers 

Thin mist, dense clouds sorrow over the whole day. 

The mcense is burnmg in the Gold Animal ^ 

Once again the happy festival of Mid- Autumn ! 

Early coolness at midnight ^ 

Creeps through the jade pillow and silk screen. 

When wme has been poured through the east hedge at twilight,* 
The sleeves are flooded with a secret fragrance. 

Do not say it is not enchantment! 

The curtain rises with the west wind, 

And I am thinner than a yellow flower ® 

translated ^ Sophia Chen 

^ A ting or tnpod used for incense bunung, the two handles being usually formed ol 

* From a line by Tao Yuan-mmg (A D. 

Gathering chrysanthemums by the east hedge. 

Leisurely 1 gaze up at the south mountain 

* Refers to the small yellow chrysanthemum beloved by Tao Yuan-mmg. These are the 
most celebrated of all her lines. 




A native Honan province, who produced poetry when he was hardly 
out of the cradle. He reused a high appointment at Court, believing 
that he would loose his freedom if he ventured far from the wine-pot. 
His earliest poetry celebrates wine and his own love-affairs, but there 
IS a progressive mellowness in his verses towards the end, he surrendered 
entirely to philosoply 


The red has parted from the green: 

Tm half sober from my drmk last night 
The horse in harness waits outside the door: 

Fading bells without the house, 

Fadmg candles before the curtains, 

Fading moon beside the window. 

She must be sleepless on her embroidered pillows, 
Remembermg that now the traveller has departed. 

So hard to dismiss it from the heart, 

So hard to see it, 

So hard to speak it. 

translated by Cbing Ti 




Born in Li-cheng in Shantungy and rose to distinction as a warrior and 
statesman under the emperors Kao Tsung and Ning Tsung oj the Sung 
djnas^. He delighted in wine^ and in one oJ his poems declared there 
were only three things worth doing to get drunk, to travel and to sleep. 


Let me enjoy myself in drunkenness. 

How can I spare a moment for my troubles? 

Now I find there is not a smgle drop of truth 
In all those books written by the ancients. 

Last mght I reeled agamst a pine tree: 

I asked the tree how sober I was. 

I thought the tree moved to offer me help, 

Pushmg against it, I said. “Go away’’’ 

translated by Ching Ti 


Young, I was imacquainted with sorrow, 

Lovmg to climb the high places, 

Lovmg to climb the high places, 

Composmg poems compelhng myself to sorrow 

Now that I have dramed sorrow to the dregs, 

I am loath to talk of it, 

I am loath to talk of it. 

I say instead: “How mce is the cool autumn”. 

translated by Hsiung Ting 



II 02 -I 141 

Advancing from the norths the Golden Horde kidnapped two Sung 
emperors and imposed conditions on the government which would have 
been unacceptable to all patriots Unfortunatelj for China, the Prime 
Minister <f the time, Ch'in Kuei was prepared to buy a delusory peace 
at the price of surrendering Chinese territoij Yo Fei, one of the greatest 
Chinese generals, attempted to continue thefght but was recalled bj the 
Prime Minister, imprisoned and sentenced to death at a time when the 
Government was prepared to abandon all the territory north of the Huai 
river the conquests in Honan by Yo Fei were forgotten, and the Sung 
i^nasy fell from this moment into a state of intolerable weakness and 

More famous even for his loyaly was the inscription which, according to 
legend, was inscribed with hot-irons on the bqy^s back by his mother, 
an inscription which may now be read on a million walls of China — 
tsm chung pao kuo, meaning With the utmost loyaly save the State. 
He was put to death in II41 and canonised in 11 


My hair bristles in my helmet: 

Standing m the porch I see that the pattering ram has ceased. 

I raise my eyes to the skies and shout with the vigour of my 

At the age of thirty fame and brave deeds are nothing but earth 
and dust: 

Eight thousand li away lie die clouds and the moon. 

Do not tarry; the hair of young men grows white with empty 

The shame heaped on us in the year of Ch^ing Kung is not yet 
wiped away.i 

* Tl*e forces of flat Stmg dynasty were defeated and the EmperOr was captured m the 
1 1 1 $, known as the year Oi*ing Kung. 


when will the sorrows of the Emperor's subjects come to an 

O let us drive endless chanqts through the Ho Lan Pass. 

Now our sweet ambitions acre directed upon the flesh of the Huns, 
And laughmg we thirst for the blood of the Hsiung-nu.i 
O let everydnng begm afresh. 

Let all the rivers and mountains return to us, 

Before we pay our respects once more to the ^mperor* 

translated bv Wang Sheng-sbih 





He was a native of Chi-sm m Shansi and graduated as chin shih in 
llS4i rising to be Keeper of the Imperial Librarj. Eventually ^ like so 
many others^ he lost favour at Court and was exiled to a provincial posty 
where he composed a commentary on the I Ching 


The sour taste of strawberries lingers in my mouth and teeth, 
The pa-chiao tree shares its green with my wmdow-curtain. 
Waking from a nap on a long day, I feel listless. 

The hours are consumed m watching children catch willow- 


My eyes are sick, I dare not open books: 

With spnng mud on the road visitors are detained. 
What shall I do through this long day, 

But keep on pacing the verandah a hundred times? 

translated by Yang Chi-smg 



1 125^-1209 

He was born m Shanjang^ Chekiang, and outlived six emperors, and in 
six^-sevenjears wrote 1 1 ,000 poems. He seems to have been prematurely 
old from birth the only exciting event in his life was his continu^ 
affection for the girl whom he was compelled to divorce on his mother^s 
orders He was Airy four when Ch^in Kuei, Ae prime minister who is 
responsible for the death <f Yueh Fei, died, and then he received a small 
clerkship in the provincial government <f Fukien The place did not suit 
him, and he was glad to remove to the more romantic atmosphere of 
Szechuan. Thereafter the scenery of SzeAuan, Ae Jlowers and the 
sacred mountains became Ae Aemes cf his poetxy ffter his term of 
office expired, he enlisted in the arrry — it had been Ae dream of his 
youA to fight against the Golden Tartars — and he was distressed when 
he discovered Aat the frontiers were scfe, there was no fighting, only an 
endless boredom. At fifyfour he Ift Szechuan and returned to bis 
native village, distressed by the luxury and incontinence cf the Govern-- 
ment, and by bis own failure to obtain high office at the Court. 

In his old age be was extreme^ poor, and lived chiefly on his memories 
f the past He grew more and more enamoured wiA nature, and found 
bis companionship in mountains, flowers, birds, children and trees. 
The slightest event in the village was recorded in his poetiy In 1 20 S the 
Mongols became increasingly poweful and began to attack Ae Golden 
Horde from Ae rear. Although he was Si, be applied for enlistment in 
Ae army, hoping that bfore he died he would see himsef in battle. 
But the armies of the Sung emperors continued to be dfeated by Ae 
Tartars, espeaally in SzeAuan, and he retired once again in disgust 
to his native village, where after a few years of peacful village life he 
died at the age of 8 s. 

He was not perhaps a very great poet. He had none cf Tu Fu*s passion, 
or Tu Fu's ympaAy. A Chinese critic wrote. “His poetyr is as simple as 
daily speech, in its simpliay there is depth, in its tranqmlhy Acre is 
such wonder Aat we are compelled to think again and agam^. Nothing 
could be more inaccurate Aan Lu Yu^s own description of himsef when 
be gave himsef Ae name cf Lu Feng-on — Lu the wild, irascible old man. 


He was placidi^ personified^ and he seems to have regarded the cultiva- 
tion (fi poetij as a hind of drug to make himsefi still more placid At 
the age of 77 , while drinking under a flowering plum-tree, be wrote 
in a prfato^ note. “Behold, in the Ihst six^ years I have written 
exactly 10,000 poems”. He was more just to himself when he said he was 
“a scholar without a scrap <f use”. 

But he remains a great poet — not only because he was the most 
voluminous. He possessed a deeply patriotic spirit, a calmness cf mind 
which might under different circumstances have made him as great a 
poet as Tao Yuan-ming, and he utterly sincere in his love of beauy. 
The passion breaks though, the thing seen is placed on paper so that 
we see it again, and sometimes he will fill the poem with overbrimming 
life. But he did not experiment in verse forms, and he added little that 
was new to the outworn tradition, and when he confessed that he was 
writing poety because he was la^ and wanted something to occupy his 
time, he was telling no more than the truth. 

In the year of his death he still wandered round the countiyside, his 
long legs straddling the back of a small pory He would pick flowers, 
recite poems to himself contemplate the ambigmy f fame, drink wine 
by a wayside inn and talk to whoever would listen to ham. He was famous 
in his village, but be knew the end could not be long delayed. Earfy one 
morning befell sick. Eveything was ready — the thin coffin, the two 
thick quilts to cover his hands and feet, the monyfor the monks and the 
site of the grave already prepared. But even then, on the very next day, 
he wrote some verses in regular seven-yllable lines, saying that be would 
have one more drink in the market-place. It was that kind of life — 
humorous, scholar^, dispassionate, gracful and calm. But he would 
have been happier if it was less calm, and f he bad really seen in the 
smoking dust be described in one of his poems “the tremendous dust oj 
chariots racing ”. — ^Pei Chwen-yu. 


It is fifteen years since peace was declared with the Tartars ; 
When there are no wars, the generals guard the frontiers m 

hi huge UMmsions dances and songs go ceaselessly on. 

Hbrses die fet in their stables, bows lie with their strings 


The hom at the frontier-post hastens the dropping moon. 

At thirty I enlisted: now my hair is white as snow. 

Who can know their loyal hearts by listening to flutes ? 

In vain you shme on the^unburied warriors" bones in the sand. 
Once m the ancient times wars were common on the central 
plain, ^ 

But now we never hear of any barbarians left alive. 

The northerners defied death m the hope of salvation? 

But tell me, how many folk tonight are sheading tears. 


The pattering rain on the empty steps quickens at night: 
Frost breaks through the thin walls and the broken window. 
The flying wind trembles on the slender lamp-flame. 

I, the old man, stand alone by a shelf of books. 

Often I take books to read, and then put them back 
And walk away ifrom my room, scratching my snow-thatched 

Daily the town inn sells a thousand gallons of wine. 

The people are happy, then why should you be sad? 


Though I am seventy, I do not want to leave my books* 

I fear that only death will be able to snatch me away from 

I wake and poke at the lamp beneath my window, 

And so I pass through this mght of wmd and rain. 


I saw you go beyond the river to guard over the frontier. 
For men ought to dedicate their bodies to the Country. 

I can neither bend the bow nor ride untamed horses. 
Therefore, my lover, how could I follow your example? 

’Hw central plain coiresponds to moiiem Ifonan. 


I climb the hill with my head raised, gazing at the north- 
west clouds 

Though my features have changed, still my heart is constant. 
All night the winter moon shines on my tear-marked face, 
But to you, my lover, I send my heart of iron 


Like a fairy spirit I leave the gate of the city: 

I am rapt when I cross the streams and climb snow 

I am afraid that not much time is left to me 
Thirteen more years have slipped away unawares 


Do you not see the old flower-seller at the south gate of 

Who feeds on flowers like a bee? 

In the morning he sells a purple blossom, 

In the evening a red flower 

Through the broken rafters of his house blue sky can be 

His rice-jar is always empty 

The coins he receives he gives to the wine-seller. 

And only goes to work when his wine-jug is empty. 

Every year in spnng the flowers blossom. 

Every day he is continually dnmk. 

An appointment at court would be unthmkable to him. 

So too would be the embankment at tibe chief minister's 

He cannot greet the guest who calls on him — 

Only hides his face with his drunken hairs. 

1 Tliere was a custom, when a chief minister was appointed, to sprinkle sand on the road 
leadmg from his house to his office — this, for some reason, was called ^makmg 
an embankment ** 



I live m poverty, day by day, 

Year by year I have been growing old like this. 
Even the Yellow River will be clear some day ^ 
But never will grey hairs turn black again 


Since I returned from garrison m the west, my hairs 
have turned grey, 

And my son has grown taller than his father 
I would be content with old age if I had clear eyes and 

I would throw the world away for soft rice and sweet tea 
I have avoided my studies except to write my name, 

I do not even dress properly to receive my guests. 

The country is peaceful and calm, spnng is dymg, 

I am madly m love with honey-sweet lonely flowers. 


Old Chang died after three years' sickness 
Old Wu suddenly went out one mght.^ 

My body is hard like steel. 

I lean on the door, gazing at the green hill. 

He is as old as I 

Sells drugs to replace husbandry 

The corns he receives he gives to the wme-seller, 

And leaves not one for himself 

There was a legend that the muddy Yellow River grows clear once every thousand years. 
Close neighbours of Lu Yu 


He accompanies old neighbours in singing, 
And teaches the young when it is raining hard 
I would like to write his life, - 
But no one knows his name. 


I know that to die is to be dead to the world, 

I bitterly regret I shall not see the Nine States united: 

Do not forget to tell your father at the family temple 
When the royal troops march northward into the central 


The soft sound of bells floats over the nver, 

The shming moon leans on the forests. 

I recognise my cottage from die plume of smoke 
I lean on the ship^s screen and gaze upon it. 


Cold rice mmgled with sand — 

A short, coarse coat to keep off the frost and dew, 
Dry leaves heaped up near the small house on the hill. 
And the people gomg past, on the backs of donkeys. 

South and north run the straight highways, 

The wheels of vehicles rolling forever 
Are they m any way more talented than I? 

And must I starve alone from morning till night. 

Such is my melancholy roadside song; 

None of the wealthy are aware of it. 

In autumn locust-leaves fall on the roads — 

O how terrible this time of heart-breaking sadness! 


The peasants in the fields have no calendar* 

They know the seasons^ through the cries of birds 
In February they hear the cuckoos. 

Then they know it is time for the spring ploughing* 

In March they hear the nightm^le's song, 

Then the young maids pity the hunger of silk- worms 
In April they hear the turtle-doves, * 

Then the household silk-worms put on straw arrowheads ^ 
In May the crows begin to crow, 

Then it is time to remove the weeds near the young seeds 
Men say a peasant's life is hard and cruel, 

Torever cravmg for ram and for fair weather. 

But who knows the joy that lies among these peasants? 

For in their lives they know no officials, 

They are content wiffi their coarse cloth, wheat and rice , 
Among these lakes and bridges wine flows like oil 
Each night they return home drunk, leanmgon one another, 
And they have no fear of meetmg the sentinel of Pa-lmg.^ 


All day long I lean on the pavilion balustrade, 

I gaze at the prune trees until they fade. 

No wonder I have no desire to welcome guests: 
It is not that I fear the cold coming of sprmg. 


Facing each other in drowsiness on the straw stool. 

The host and the guest forget each other’s company. 
Suddenly the host starts up, and sees no guest is there. 

One half of the west window is not lit by the settmg sun. 

^ The silkworms are placed on small bundles of straw shaped like arrowheads (u*u) to 
await the formation of the cocoons. 

* Li Kuang, a famous general and archer during the Han dynasty, returned one mght and 
was detained by the sentinel at JPSa-lmg 



When I am fed, with no occupation or care, I am glad , 
Old people indeed are like childrki m swaddling bands 
To fall asleep before the evening bell has rung, 

And wake up when the sim has reached the zenith. 


Unbearable is the sickness that invades old age. 

Often I hold up the mirror and sorrow over myself. 

The west wind blows away the wine I drank m die morning, 
And restores me to my withered-leaf of a fadmg face. 


The village wine is sw^eet and sour, the town wme rotten. 
But better than starmg at an empty cup all day 
My cottage cannot stand the autumn's loneliness. 

And so I tramp in the rain and knock at the inn door. 


Prune trees begin to stir before and after the snow: 

North and south of the street wme can be bought on credit. 
While I am healthy, let me drink wherever I go. 

To have a home is not always better than none. 


The weather is fair after the fall of a few snowflakes: 
Bright tile-piercmg frosts accompany the shmmg moon. 
Suddenly I hear a hermit piping on his flute. 

And turning to the wmdow I join him, reading aloud. 



Irrigate the high wasteland and the slopes for ploughing 
I did nodung praisewoVthy in life after death no fame. 

Do not ask why I have become more and more useless. 

It was thirty years ago when the snow hairs descended on 


The evenmg wmd begins its whistlmg sound 
The wanmg moon pours out shining beams 
I love to open the door and gaze idly — 

I can stroll slowly if I have a stick 

Little frost, the trees mostly green, 

The spring-water is flowing through the field-ditches. 
I remember the days of my childhood, 

Playing chess, with a board scrabbled on the ground 


In August the cool wmd blows to drive the heat away, 
From all the courtyards comes the sound of threshmg. 

The harvest is three-fold, the ears many and full of gram — 
Enough to break carnage-axles and redden men's shoulders. 

In former days the government sent summonses like ram, 
But now no officials walk along the road. 

At the cottage doors the old and the young are eternally 

And the pots in the kitchens are tired of stewing pigs and 


It is midnight, yet sleep will not come to me. 

So I rise and stroll beneath the 3im moon 

The wind starts to blow and the frightened leaves fall, 

And the lotos bends under the thick dew. 

The pleasu]?e found in wine is rough and harsh 
How stupid to me appears posthumous fame’ 

The fever still continues: I close the door, 

I sit down and wait for sunrise 


Above us the clouds are weaving and unweavmg, 
The breeze m the courtyard goes and returns. 
Take life easily — ^it will always be the same. 

Who can prevent us from being conviviaP 


I have a new vegetable garden, about two acres. 

And three shabby and ancient straw cottages. 

My health has improved a bit smce my sickness has gone. 
Cool and gentle are the nights of early autumn. 
Sometimes mild vsdne makes me sober, sometimes drunk* 
Only one half of the tom book remains. 

I often smile, advising my poor lonely self 
Not to sorrow unnecessarily. 

all translated by Pei Chwenyu 







I am just a mad scholar. 

By mere chance I came from a family stained with the dust 
of the court. 

If I had wine, I should only spnnkle it on the tombs of the 
heroes of Chao. 

O Cheng Sheng, who xmderstands my mtentions m life^ 
Unbelievable that at last I have met my bosom ftiend — 
Pure eyes, high-spirited, both of us young. 

Wme-cups before us, we wiped away heroic tears. 

Look, the moon is like water ^ 

With you tonight we shall be drowned in wine 
Let the silly women gossip — ^in ancient times it was 
permissible to revile them. 

No, no, the red dust of the world is not worth our trouble ! 
Cast a cold eye on them^ 

When I dream of the past, I would have everythmg blotted 
out* . . 


A heaven-shrieking gale harries the earth this depth of 

Ungirthing the saddle-strings, I see the ravens hurrying 
across the sky by twilight. 

The ice has blocked up the Great River. 

O terrible immensity of sorrow! 


Scars of the burnt earth eternally meet my gaze , 

Drums and horns soimd jBrom the high walls 

Tomorrow I shall arrive m Ch'ang-an 

In the heart of this wanderer there are unending sorrows. 


The bright moon in love must surely laugh at me, 
Mocking at my stupidity: 

I have been unfaithJEul to the heart of sprmg, 
Wandering all alone, humming songs to myself. 

Of late I have been afraid to talk of past events. 

I have sought solace in the orchid dress. ^ 

The moon wanes, the lamp bums m its socket. 

Within the dream where is the vanished cloud? 

all translated bj Hswng Ting 

i € nuile compatucoiship The Chinese Jan or orchid is the s^me colour as its leaves, 
and does not suggest elBexmnacy 



1911 — 


A tradition had grown up effortlessly througlj the years, but 
like all traditions it was the result of constant change, of constant 
forces working from outside and inside on the texture of the 
civilisation The songs of the state of Chu, written originally in 
a language akm to Tai, altered the shape of the poetry, the five 
and seven syllable Imes were introduced durmg the Han dynasty 
from the barbarian tribes These, until recently, were the greatest 
foreign influences on Chinese poetry Then there came the 
invasions of the West, and a knowledge of the verse forms of a 
hundred other nations arrived at a time when Chinese versification 
was suffering from an excessive crystallisation. When in 1917 Dr. 
Hu Shih began a campaign for introducing the vernacular language, 
he was doing no more than setting the seal on a movement which 
had begun long previously. The novel which we know as The 
Dream ^ the Red Chamber was wntten in pei hua so were coxmtless 
other novels, and coxmtless poems. But the official language was 
still wen li, that delicate and deliberate monosyllabic language 
which had hardly changed smce the time of Confucius. Only 
officials could read it. hardly anyone could understand it when it 
was read aloud. But the language of the people was there, it had 
force and vigour and Ixixuriance and resilience, all of which were 
lackmg in the more ornately official language, and the time had 
come for a swift change and an abrupt break with the past. But it 
came slowly. It was difficult even for the scholars who insisted 
most on the change to accustom themselves to the new 
atmosphere. Dr. Hu Shih's Experiments published early in 1920, 
still celebrated “the wmd, the flowers, the snow and the moon’’. 
The themes were hackney ed^and threadbare, but at least the versifi- 
cation was revolutionary. The intermmable parallel versification 
was abandoned There were to be no more verses like: 

Two piece yellow oriole smg emerald willow 

One row white egret soar azure sky 

Instead there were to be attempts to rejlect the l^e oj the people usm^ 

L * 323 

the words of the people, their emotions and present sufferings There was 
Hsu Chih-mo, the brilliant expounder oj a culture he had derived from 
Cambridge, there were a host of joung poets, like Chu Hsiung, Liu 
Meng-wei and Wen Yi-tuo, who wer& determined to take the new 
fortress bj storm, Thej onlj half succeeded in the beginning. Even Hu 
Sh hj the most revolutiona^ <f all, wrote in a mood which was derived 
from the past: 

Again thfe thin clouds, 

Again the brilliant moonlight after the clouds, 

But no more the travelling companion of last year, 

And no more the youthful feelings of that time 
Not willing to be reminded of love lost, 

I dared not go outdoors to look at the moon , 

But the mischievous moon came in by the open window, 
And made me sleepless the whole night. 

This was not revolutionarj poetry, but it was revolutionary verse, 
Hu Shih seems to have withdrawn from the movement short^ afterwards, 
and It was Ifft to Wen Yi-tuo to insist that free verse was not the necessay 
concomitant of the new poetry. He developed the theoy that poetry 
should possess the qualities of architecture and music, thy should 
oby dffinite laws, thy should root poetry in the earth; thy should give 
It the appearances (f form, and the utmost (f their art. He faded to 
start any movement, but something of his insistence on an almost 
classical foundation to Chinese poetry remains even in the poems of Tien 
Chien and Ai Ching, both (f whom he approves. 

The war, more than the literay coteries (f Peking in 1917, changed the 
course of Chinese poety, Mayakovsly^s influence was more lasting, and 
more effective than Shelly's, The rigours of the war, the desperate weari- 
ness, the vast travels of armies brought about a mood which had something 
zn common with the mood kf the Han dynasy — a hardness (f fibre and 
of imagination which disappeared in Chinese poetry on the death of 
Su Tung-p'o, The poets, who were (f ten young students, were not dilet- 
tante revolutionaries, thy had seen the county blazing with Japanese 
fire, and thy had suffered unendurably. There is an end to their dreams 
of Peach-blossom Fountains — or almost an end. The world is seen in 
the revealing light <f war to be a thing which can be trodden on, 
shaped, tortured, made hideous with cries Thy had seen these things 
bffore. There had been almost uninterrupted civil war since the birth 
<f the Republic, T>ut this war came from abroad and it was more 
terrible than ary wars of the past, and more revealing of their own 


weaknesses. The river changed course The past was jettisoned. Out of 
these hard sufferings thej made hard poetrj. 

But the past remained. We see it occasionallj in the poems ff Tien 
Chih-hny whose translations oj Mallarme and Valeij were among the 
first to appear in China We see it more clearfy in the poetiy of Feng 
Chih, who learnt from Rilke and Goethe almost the same lessons which 
he learnt from Chuang-tzu We see it in the poems of Ai Ching, who 
follows the patterns of Whitman but describes the bustling sand-bitten 
life of north China ^ with a desperate joj m the land. And though it is 
deliberatelj absent in Tien Chien, who lives in a moment <f time, there 
are indications that even in his poetrj it will return. The poetrj of 
Mao Tze-tung follows the patterns (f Vang djnasj poetrjy but twists 
these patterns into modern shape And there are countless others. As in 
the old daySy nearlj everyone in China writes poety. It is scribbled 
on walls, pasted on wall newspapers, printed — usuallj at tremendous 
cost to the poets themselves — on ragged brown or jellow paper in Jpe 
that IS almost indecipherable. It flourished in the universities of the 
south-west and all over the north-west, and though much of it was 
sentimental, there was more poetic vigour during thejears of war than 
in all thejears of civil war And though the Chinese poets themselves 
insist that thy have cut themselves adrftfrom the past, the past is 
alwajs returning, the Teach-blossom Fountain is alwajs flowering and 
we see the same melancholj in these poems of war against the Japanese 
as we see in the poems written about the Hsiung-nu and the barbarians 
who held their forts bejond the Yu Men Kuan But though the melancholj 
IS the same, there is a new strength, a new vitalij in these poems which 
more than anjthing else reveal the minds <f the Chinese of the present — 
their sapling vigour, their love for life and their amazing strength in 
spite of all weariness and all dfeats 

The new poety has come to staj. It is too earlj to saj whether it will 
follow the direction of Tien Chien or of Tien Chih-lm, the two out- 
standing poets <f the new age. What is certain is that though the figures 
of the great poets <f the past loom hard behind them, thy are determined 
to make a poety their own. The wheel seems to have turned full circle, 
and once more, as in the dajs when unknown poets were singing The 
Book of Songs, thy go out in search of an undiscovered world. 




He was known as the Monk of Eight Fingers because he dedicated two 
to Buddha bj holding them in a fame He reached high rank in the 
Buddhist heirarchj of ChinCy but his poems remain entire^ traditional 
The following poem might just possibly have been written a thousand 
years previously. 


At thirteen I followed the army and garrisoned a border 

Five thousand iron horses marched together. 

At the Great Wall we fought, all perished. 

I have no desire to have my portrait in the Hall of Clouds, 

With broken banners m my hands I beckon the settmg sun: 
“Heroic souls, follow me back to your village homes”. 
Suddenly a skeleton arose and talked like a man: 
“Honourable Sir, take this letter to my mother and father. 

Tell them I am in exile, a ghost among new ghosts ; 

Tell them I am far from home, a wanderer — 

They do not know whether I am alive or dead, 

And tell my wife not to suffer for my sake” 

translated by Wang Sheng-chih 



He was born in iSpS in the province oj Hupeh studied painting in 
New York and on his return to China threw himsey' into a tremendous 
and necessaij reinterpretation oJ the ancient Chinese classical writings 
in the light of recent research. He published only two booh poetry • 
The Red Candle (19^2) and The Dead Water (1928)^ but th^ 
have exercised an effect on the poetij oJ thejounger writers far in excess 
of their size. Wen Yi-tuo was essentially the scholar, occasional^ writing 
critical articles, but more cften devoted to pure scholarship and the 
illumination of present political problems bj examination of the past. 
He was assassinated in the summer of 1946, 


How beautiful are those eyes! 

The god of love, two calm pondb of clear water. 

0 you poor, weak swimmers, 

1 would advise you to return to the shore. 


There are hazel-bushes by the waterside: 

How charming those black jade eyebrows! 

The nose sloping down like a pyramid 
May perhaps be some lover^s grave. 

And there are the two red door-leaves, 

Red as the mellowest cherries. 

And inside there is a screen of cowries. 

Who knows what kind of snare he is setting? 

This may be the paradise of Eden, 

A house of beauty or an altar of love? 

No, not entirely so-L- 

A bewildered palace haunted by deathly ghosts. 



At once all the inanimate things burst out smgmg. 
Complaints from every part of the desk. 

The mk-case groans. “I am thirsty to death’” 

The dictionary cries that the rainwater is soaking its back. 

The wntmg-pad says its waist is achmg with bending, 

The fountain-pen says the tobacco-ash has clogged its 

The ink-brush says the match has burnt its beard, 

And the pencil says the toothbrush is weighing on its leg. 

The incense-pot grumbles “The books are unreasonable — 
Sooner or later they will throw me down!” 

The steel-cased watch says its bones will rust with sleep. 
“The wind is coming!” the writing-paper fearfully laments 

The ink-stone claims it is meant to hold water: 

“Why do I have to suffer cigar-ash and stinking dirt?” 

The desk says it is never cleaned more than once a year 
The ink-pot proclaims. “I swilled you on a rainy day” 

‘Who the devil is the master of all of us?” 

So all these manimate objects burst out singmg, 

“If really we have to continue in this disorder. 

It would be better if there was no existence at all”. 

The master bit his pipe and smiled blandly. 

“The best thing to do is for all of you to remain where you 

It is not my fault that you are all distressed 
The order of the universe is beyond my power”, 

all translated bj Ho Ynn^ 



Feng Chih was born in 1^0 5 m the province Hopgi, j^ter graduating 
at Tehng University he studied German literature and philosopfy <^t 
Heidelberg, and fell under the inJJuence of Goethe, HoeMerlin and Filhe, 
who have been his gods ever since Near^ all his poetry has been in 
sonnet form, which he uses with a peculiarly Chinese grace He published 
Songs of Yesterday in 1^2J and Northern Wanderings in 19 30 , 
More recent^ he published the considerably more famous twent~seven 
sonnets, from which the present selection has been made 



Behold the vast cavalcades of horses, 

Bringing merchandise from far away regions, 

And the nvers washing up mud and sand 
From some unknown place beyond the frontiers. 

The wind whistling across the deserts 
Bears with it an immense sighmg: 

We, who have crossed so many mountams and rivers, 
No longer possess them once we have gone on our way. 

We are like birds circling in the air. 

Seeming always to hold the sky in our power. 

Yet unable ever to call anything our own. 

Where, then, lies the truth in ourselves? 

We can take nothmg from the far regions, 

And nothing from here may we carry away. ' 



Standing together side by side on high mountains, 
Projectmg ourselves mto the far distant plains 
And into the broad landscape at our feet, 

And the paths criss-crossing one another — 

All these, roads, streams, are within us, 

These winds, these clouds, all enter into us ; 

The mountains and cities and rivers we have passed through 
Are all summoned up in our lives 

Our growing and our grief 
Is a pine on a hill over there, 

A mist in a town over here. 

We follow the wind, flow m water. 

We also are in the paths criss-crossmg on the plain. 

And we are the people who travel on the plains. 


For years you lived between life and death. 

And now to this degenerate town you return, 
Listenmg to the idiot singing in the streets: 

You feel yourself an ancient hero. 

Returning after centuries to his native place, 

Seeing his changed degenerate descendants, 
Discovering nothmg that sings of health and youth, 
Crestfallen, stunned, dizzy with failure. 

For on the battlefields you were a great hero : 

In another world you lifted your face to the sky, 
Who now resembles a stringless kite. 

Wherefore blame fortune^ 

You have outstripped them all, for none can follow 
Your upward eternal flight into the skies. 



Listening to the storm, the wind and the. ram, 

In this utter solitude* of lamp-light — 

Yet though the cottage is so small. 

Between us and the objects around us 

Thousands of miles extend into the distance. 

The brass ewer yearns for the mountam bre, 

The porcelain cup yearns for the nverine clay: 

All, all ate like birds in a storm 

Scattered east and west So we hold ourselves tight. 
As though afraid that our bodies would escape from 
The strong gale lifting everything mto the deep sky, 

While the threshmg ram beats all things into dust: 
There is left now only the small trembling flame 
To prove to us now that life still remains. 


Here in the warm sunshine. 

Once again we come out into the country* 
We are like waters of many rivers 
Coijiing together m a single sea. 

There is the same warning call 
Filling our hearts ; 

There is the same fate 
Falling on our shoulders. 

There is the same heaven 
Who guards us and saves us ; 

But when dusk falls 

The roads leadmg in different directions 
Call us back to ourselves: 

And once again the sea becomes rivers, 



You say, The things I like best to gaze on 
Are the country pathways quick with life, 

For many are the feet of the nameless wanderers 
Whose footsteps left imprints on these living roads: 

So too m the fields of our mind, 

There are also winding footpaths, 

The paths of those who once travelled this way 
And disappeared, no one knows whither^ 

There were children alone, and old couples; 

Youths and maidens m their first rejoicing. 

Old friends now dead: they join 

In treadmg for us those ancient pathways. 

Therefore, in memory of their fading footsteps. 

Let us prevent the paths from being choked by weeds. 


For Tsai Yuan-Tei, a great educator 
and leader of the people^ and President 
of Peking Umversi^* 

Many, without discrimination, mention your name 
And place you together with others; 

Yet do you keep perpetually 
A steadfast, peculiar brilliance. 

Only m the frail dawnlight of evenmg and morning 
Do people recognise you — ^morning and evenmg star: 
At midnight you are indistmguishable 
From other stars: many were the young 

Who through your quiet revelation were enabled 
To seek a full life and a fuller death: 

Now you also are dead, and deeply we regret 

That never agam will you help us along our tasks, 
When once again the world is new-born 
And all that is broken is mended and restored. 

all traxislated bj Chu K'an 



He claims that he was chiejlj influenced hj Verhaereny Mayakovsl^ and 
Van Goghy but no one has ever believed such nonsense. He comes from 
Kwangtungy in the deep south, and after stu(fying painting in the 
south of France, he has made his home in the north. He is an expatriate, 
often looking awc^from the loess and the sands of the north to the green 
luxuriance <f the south, and jet he belongs completely to the place 
where he lives. With the possible exception <f Tien Chien, he is the 
greatest poet produced by the war. He is simple, never relinquishing 
bis vision of the sandy plains The Man Who Died a Second Time 
gave him his greatest fame, but I have chosen The Trumpeter because 
It shows, I think, a greater mastey of form and imagery. 


They say the fate of the trumpeter is misery and sorrow: 
He breathes on the delicate brass skin of the trumpet and 
cleans it, 

And then again he pours his blood through the hollow 
trumpet and smgs. 

His face is pale yellow . . . 


There are those who sleep miserably among spread 

There are those who are utterly exhausted and covered 
with grime. 

There are those who wear grey clothes. 

Among them he is the first to awake- 
Strange is his waking, 

As though shocked by the sudden return of the sun. 

He wakes astonished. 

Why is thisT? 

The wheels of the dawn chariot are ridmg past him, 
Rumbling into the distance. 


He opens his eyes 

By the weak lamp-light which is never put out at night. 
He sees the trumpet hanging by his side. 

Puzzled, then delighted, 

Waking from sleep, 

He sees his darling 
On such days 

He IS wholly m love with the trumpet, 


So beautiful — 

The slender body of it shining 
With rude health. 

And the red silk ribbons 
Flowing down from it 

He rises among the paddy-stalks, 

Not complaming of having slept on moist earth. 

He binds up his puttees, 

Dashes cold water on his face. 

Looks at the softly snoring companions, 

Stretches his hands towards the trumpet 

And outside in the darkness 
The dawn has not yet come: 

He was awakened by 

His eager longmg for the dawn. 

He walks up the slope of the hill 
And stands there for a long while, 

Watching the recurring miracle of the day. 

Dark night has removed her mysterious curtains, 
Thousands of weary stars are disappearing . , . 

Dawn! Thou art Time's bride! 

Thou comest riding on a golden- wheeled chariot, 

From afer, from the other side of the world. 

Our world welcomes her 

And hangs her banners in the east. 


Between heaven and earth the solemn bridals are 



Now he lifts 

Under the blue transparent firmament 
The trumpet to his lips. 

And blows. 

The trumpet is filled with fresh air from the plains. 

So in gratitude 

He blows his refreshing songs across the plains. 

In love for the tumultuous dawn ’ 

He soimds the reYeille — 

The songs flows out into the distance. 

All things in the world 
In their glory and happiness 
Accept his call . . . 

The forests awake. 

The birds twitter, 

The rivers call 
The horses to drmk. 

The villages awake, 

Peasant women pass along the banks of streams, 

The grey-clothed people 

Come from their rugged houses wearing a dress of light, 
Going hither and thiAer . . . 

He chmbs down the hill 

And vanishes among the streams of people. 

He has blown the reveille 

And summoned them to their food. 

The sun in thundering splendour 
Rises m the firmament 
And summons them all . . , 


The road goes on 

Towards the never-endmg peaks of heaven. 

The road goes on 

Trodden by a million footprints, 

Wheel-niarks, layers of thick mud. 


The road goes on, 

Bringing the village together 
The road goes on, 

Climbing up one slope and down another, 

And now 

She IS gilded with sunlight. 

Then the trumpeter 

Marches out into the glory of the sun. 

And sounds the advance: 

A ceaseless ring of flowing sound 
Comes from the gold trumpet, 


The grey flocks of the people 
Disperse and spread over Ae wide plains, 

Where in the fields 
Endless green grass 
Serves as an altar. 

Listen, the deafenmg roar 

Of thunder on the edge of heaven 

We breathe the mmgled perfiimes of earth and grass, 

From the distance comes the odour of smoke. 

In trenches we spend our wmters, 

Silently, waitmg for orders 
Like a woman giving birth 
Who waits patiently for her child 
Our hearts, our breasts 
Flow with new abundant love. 

Now m these days approaching the end of life 
Which Time has arranged for us. 

We prepare ourselves, 

Each one possessing a pure and holy will. 

That he may deserve death m the glory of the battlefield! 


The war began cruelly: 

Multitudes of soldiers. 

Astonished light gleaming from bayonets, 

Leap from the* trenches, 

Running exquisitely, 

Advancing towards the ^eatening enemy, 


Thtuider and lightning of death-cnes! 

They will never march agam — 

Never agam the impetuous runnmg of feet. 

And the trumpeter, 

Inspired by the lips of life, 

Violently, unassumingly, 

Blows the trumpet at the moment of his death: 

His voice covering all, 

His voice more beautiful than all, 

Inspired by life, completmg his prayer of victory 

At the moment when a bullet pierced his heart and breast, 

Falling silently — 

No one saw him fall 

Down to the earth he loved above all things, 

In his hand 

Still grasping the trumpet. 

The smooth skin of the trumpet 
Reflects this boy^s blood 
And his white face. 

It reflects also 

The advance of the soldiers. 

Their continual striving, 

Their horses neighing, 

Their thundering chariots. 

The sun, the sun 

Glitters on the trumpet's smooth surface. 


The trumpet is still singing . . . 


Snow falls on the Chinese land 
Cold blockades China . . . 

The wind like an old woman with many grievances 
Closely follows behind 
And stretches out her claws, 

Tugs at clothes. 

Her words are as old as the earth. 

Complaining, never ceasing. 


From the forests 
Dnving their carts 
Come the farmers of Chma, 

Wearing their for caps — " 

Where do they want to go ? 

I tell you, I too 

Am a descendant of farmers, 

Like you, my face 
Is etched with pain. 

So deeply do I know 
Those months, those years of labour, 
Knowing how people live in the plains, 
Passing hard’days. 

No, I am not happier than you. 

— Lying in the river of time. 

Often the tides of distress 
Have entirely overwhelmed me. 

In exile and m prison cells 
I spent my most precious youth. 

My life 
Like yours 
Is haggard. 

Snow falls on the Chinese land: 

Cold blockades Chma . . . 

Along the rivers of a snowy night 
A small oil-flame drifts slowly 
In a ragged boat with a black sail. 

Facmg Ae lamp and hanging her head 
Who sits there? 

O you 

Snot-haited and dirty-faced yoxmg woman, 
Is this your warm house, 

A warm and happy nest and cave. 

Burnt out by the invader? 

On such a night as this 

You lost your husband's protection 

In terror of death you were teased 


By the enemy's bayonets, 


Aiee, dn so cold a night 
Numerous old mothers 
Crouch in homes not theirs. 

Like strangers 
Not knowing 

Where tomorrow's wheels will take them. 

The roads of China 
Are as rugged as theirs. 

Snow falls on the- Chinese land. 

Cold blockades Chma 

Throughout the snoivy pasture m the long night 
Are lands bitten by the beacons of war. 
Numerous men of tillage 
Live in the village of Absolute Despair. 

The cattle they fed are robbed, 

The fat ricd-fields plundered. 

Over the hungry earth, 

Facing the dark sky, 

They hold out shivering hands 
Asking for succour. 

O pain and distress of China, 

Endless like the snowy night. 

Snow falls on the Chinese land , 

Cold blockades China, 

O China 

On this lampless night, 

Can my weak lines 
Give you a little warmth’ 


Winter is lovely in no colour. 

Winter is lovely for no birds sing 

In the winter forest a solitary walk is happiness. 

I will be hke a hunter, lightly passing over, 

Nor do I think I will gam anything. 



From this small humble village hidden m a valley, 

From the powerful mountains have I come, 

From the dim smoky tile-roofed house, 

With a fartner^s candor and with a farmer's troubles I come, 
I run up the slopes of the mountain — 

Now let wi]d air and simlight 

And the ocean-like wilderness stretching out from the 
foot of the mountain 
Utterly destroy my troubles, 

And let the endless area of blue skies, 

So wide, so wide, 

Loosen my heart-strings. 

Let us walk m this enclosure of air, 

And when we grow tired, 

Let us rest among the roots of old trees, 

Listenmg to the little streams among rock-cliffs, 

Watching the eagles, looking on rock-doves. 

And tie mule-trams carrying coal sacks, 

And the men in rags, 

And the weak whips and the weary voices 
As they turn 

Into a strange, dark ravine. 

And we follow them. 

Thinking of the ravine and the old temple, 

And the row of small huts and co-operatives. 

Then the lorries pass! 

O roar of thunder! 

Everywhere merchandise flowing, 

Young people in lorries waving their hands at me: 

Their presence 

Making my heart beat wildly. 

And the sedan-chairs passing. 

The gleam of wet metal. 

White wings of the sunlight, 

Blood on the mountain veinS, 

And myself watching them 

Racing after them with my heart's blood. 


My soul reaches to freedom. 

My lungs expand in the freshness of air, 

My eyes penetrate all distance, 

My legs stumble because I am happy. 

Strong hands, strong hammers spht the rock: 

Explosions of dynamite, 

There where the ten thousand foot precipice cuts across 
the road. 

Stones, earth, cement, 

Perspiration of a thousand workmen, 

Sun shimng above them, < 

Oceans of amusing blue; 

And down below lies the broad river 
Full of black-wood boats and ragged sailcloth 
Motionlessly floatmg on the surface. 

O from here 

They are like little pepper-grams I 

0 pitiable heart, O simple heart, 

Seeing again the broad white plains 
You awaken 

Into deep pride of life. 

Even though I were an ant or grasshopper 
Crawling or flying along this highway 

1 would be happy. 

Wearing a p^ir of sandals 

And a summer hat made of wh^t-stalks, 

Walking the new highway. 

Pursuing freedom 
In love and gaiety. 

O road laid before me, how broad you are I 

How even you are I 

How unrestrained your progress! 

How freely 

You reach into far places. 

We can follow the road you travel 
As snake-hke you climb to heaven, 


Or as a string tying up the earth — 

Looking around me I see 
Rivers, mountains, roads, villages, 

Clusters of beautifiil forest, 

Harmony everywhere. 

And It seems to me now 

That I stand on the heights of the world! 

all translated hj Ho Chih-juan 



Tien Chien is the enfant terrible cf modern Chinese poetry, a man who 
has attempted to create an entirely new syle Wen>^Yi-tuo has called 
him Hhe drummer of a new age'\ and ^the apostle of a new hind of poetry 
which IS intimately related to our primitive and more enduring emotions^’. 
He began by writing simply, almost childishly, in a way which suggested 
that there was no difference between the thing seen and the thing recorded; 
later he experimented with a drum-like rhythm — both manners are 
represented here. He published two collections of poetry m 1936 called 
It is not yet dawn and Chinese ballads, but it is for the poems h: 
wrote during the war in Yenan that he will be remembered 


O my young brothers. 


In the morning, 

What roads did you come through? 

Do you see 

The soldiers walkmg m the streets, 


Piled on their shoulders? 

Help them, 

Bring comfort to them. 

They will fight, 

They will die, 

They will bleed , . . 

O my younger brothers. 

Do not fear them ; 


For a little while. 

Stretch hands to them: 


Long live China! 



More than a hundred 
Farmers are coming, 

Full of wrath, 

Full of melancholy — 

The enemy 
May seize 

More than a hundred guns 
They will not fall. 

The hearts of farmers 
Marching . . . 


Ceases • , ^ 

They shout; 

There on the sands where the blood is not yet dry* 
The hearts of the farmeis 


Their lances 
Are raised at the front* 
in the van 
Lies the flag. 

Children, women, everyone. 

Marching, marching . . . 

“Do not fear burning, 

Do not fear killmg, 

We are on the road to search 
A new way . 

More than a hundred farmers , 

Marching, marching 
Packed close hke iron , * . 

A star on 


Snow ceases, 

All hands, 

All faces 

Stretch to die earth. 

The children 
Sit in the snow, 

Scrabbling snow, 

Putting snow in their mouths. 

Even tears 
Are changed 
To weapons . . . 

The more tears shed. 

The more enemies die. 

They wipe away their tears, 
They cry out: 


The snow stops: 

More than a hundred 

Push away the new flakes of snow, 

New stains of blood. 

Grief ceases. 

They begin 
To sing. 

translated hj Chu Chm-I 



He was born in 1893 in Hsiangtan^ Hunan He enlisted in the 
revolutionarjr arnff^in 1911^ but later resigned to work in peasant 
movements in his native province In 1919 he was an assistant librarian 
in Peking Universi^. Since 1937 he has been chairman oj the Military 
Council of the 8th Route Arny 


All the scenery of the North 
Is enclosed m a thousand li of ice 
And ten thousand li of whirling snow. 

Behold both sides of the Great Wall ^ 

There is only a vast confusion left 

On the upper and lower reaches of the Yellow River 

You can no longer see the flowing water. 

The mountains are dancmg silver serpents, 

The hills on the plains are shining elephants. 

I desire to compare my height with the skies. 

In clear weather 

The earth is so charmmg,* 

Like a red-faced girl clothed in white 

Such is the charm of these mountams and rivers, 

Calling innumerable heroes to vie with each other in 
pursuing her. 

The emperors Shih Huang and Wu Ti were barely cultured, 
The emperors Tai Tsimgand Tai Tsu were lacking in feeling, 
Ghenghiz Khan knew only how to bend his bow at the 

These all belong to the past — only today are there men of 




A boat of sandalwood and oars of magnolia rjo 

Above us the clouds are weaving and unweaving 316 

A coat of squirrel fur, many dancing girls 182 

Across thousands of mountains no birds fly 241 

Against the lamp I sit by the south window 219 

A guest resides in ^xe 13^ 

A heaven-shnekmg gale harries the earth this, depth of wmter 319 

Ah, Sun, ah, Moon 40 

Aiyee, $0 handsome I ^9 

All day long I lean on the pavilion balustrade 313 

All grasses are yellow ^7 

All mght they fought north of Hsiangkiang 249 

All the scenery of the North 346 

All things have their own shelter 137 

Amid the turbulent waters ^3 

Among the ancient tombs both high and low 221 

An angel enclosed in paradise 281 

A piece of coloured cloud shines on the stone well 2 34 

At clear dawn I comb my white hairs 205” 

At dawn amid coloured clouds I left White Emperor City 169 

At last I have found the sprmg where eveiythmg is hidden 236 

At once all the inanimate things burst out singing 328 

At the foot of South Mountain I sow beans 138 

At thirteen I followed the army and garrisoned a border town ^326 

Autumn, m the second year of the Sovereign Lord 208 

Away and away 293 

Away with learning’ Away with gneving’ 7 j 

Away with Sages 1 Away with wisemen’ 82 

Because you are old and departing I have wetted my handkerchief 219 

Before Heaven and Earth were born 75- 

Before the pavilion spnng hastens the red flowem* 280 

Before the Peak of Returmng Joy the sand was like snow 178 

Before you praise Spring’s advent note 193 

Behold, the horsemen are gallopmg along the Szechuan road 182 

Behold the vast cavalcade of horses 329 

Be humble, you will be whole 77 

Beside the nver stands the hundred-foot tower 221 

Beyond the frontiers he the hard winters 147 

Beyond the seas they say there is another earth 27^ 

Beyond the tower lies the river 240 


Black clouds press on the city 263* 

Blue, blue is your collar 6^ 

Bright shines the new tower 

By Red Bridge grass and flowers overgrow a*« wilderness 272 

By the love of the Heavenly Emperor all things grow as in Spring 297 

Can the moving soul be One 82 

Chariots rumble and roll , horses whinney and neigh 195 

Chu-Yung was Lord^of this place and produced this flower 70 

Claimed by our patriarchs to have survived 192 

Clean is the autumn wind 167 

Cold, cold, the wind and the rain 

Cold rice mingled with sand 312 

Coming IS an empty word, going leaves no trace * 276 

Cool perfume of bamboo pervades my room 203 

Crooked are the thomwood spoons ^4 

Deficient in the polite studies 193 

Dewdrops of shaded orchids 2^9 

Dim the mountains, far away the waters 273 

Do not buy precious scissors 222 

Do not follow the great chariot 

Do you not see the old flower-seller 310 

Do you not see the the waters of the Yellow River 162 

Dnnking on East Slope at night 293 

Earth, return to your place 70 

Eastward runs the great river 287 

Endlessly, endlessly on the vast lake grow the water-cresses 297 

Facmg each other in drowsmess on the straw stool 313 

Falling leaves, falling leaves 33 

Far the best tune for the poet is early Spring 239 

Feeling fretful towards evening 276 

Few visitors come through this gate 222 

Foam resembling a thousand drifts of snow 282 

For forty years my country and my home 282 

For thousands of miles the nightmgaje smgs 273 

For years you lived between life and death 330 

From pure white silk wmds and frost arise 194 

From their high pillared halls the guests have flown 276 

Froni this small humble village hidden in a valley 340 

Gleamii^, gleaming are the white clouds 70 

Go to tli^ end of the Void 74 

Green, green are the rush-leaves 34 


Harvest overflowing, millions of grains of millet and rice 49 

Heaven and Earth are without benevolence 83 

Heaven is eternal, Earth enduring 80 

He bathes among orchids, washes his hair in the scented streams 89 

He gave me a quince 6^ 

Heiho, my coat is green 

Heiho, my husband 1$ brave ^4 

Heiho, the Sun in the East 
He is as old as I 

He IS away gathering dolichos 47 

Here are green tiles and scarlet balustrades 290 

Here m the warm sunshine 331 

Here it is night I stay at the Summit Temple 173 

He who woifld Tao in the service of a king 8 s 

Holding a jug of wine among the flowers x 74 

How beautiful are those eyes 327 

How luxuriant the grass m the meadow! 227 

Hunger dnves me along my road 132 

Hungry and cold we stand below the city 264 

Human affairs are dreams 290 

I am a distant descendant of Kao Yang Ti 99 

I am just a mad scholar 31^ 

I am old, sick and lonely 292 

I anse in the East in all my immensity 94 

I drive my chariot down through the East Gate 121 

I entered an ancient temple at the dawn 248 

I have a new vegetable garden, about two acres 316 

I have just seen you go down the mountain i ^2 

If heaven has no love for wine , 176 

If you were to ask me why I dwell among green mountains 163 

If you hold the Great Fonn 79 

I hear you have gone to live among the village mounds 221 

I know that to die is to be dead to the world 312 

I lay my harp on the curved table 220 

I like my friend Meng 178 

I like sitting alone when the moon is shining 220 

I like to live m poverty, day by day 311 

I look at my shadow over and over in the lake 225’ 

I look before and do not see the ancients 149 

I mount the turret steps to welcome Spring 2^8 

I must return My fields and my orchards 141 

In ancient times I heard of the south acres 134 

In August the cool wind blows to drive the heat away 31^ 

In early morning someone knocks at my door 137 

In my late age I am compelled to live a stolen life 195- 

In the ancestral chest lies a watery sword 

In the capital Spring comes late 223 

In the East there dwells a scholar 140 


In the eighth moon of autumn, the wmd howhng viciously 197 

In the high forest dew dnps this summer mght 238 

In the morning we enter tibe barracks at the East Gate 202 

In the south there are fine fish ' 3:9 

In the wood lay a dead doe 37 

I play with stones and sit beside the stream 226 

I roamed with wine along the lakes and rivers 273 

Irrigate the high wasteland and the slopes for ploughing 315- 

I saw you go beyond the nver to guard our frontier 309 

I see the moonlight^shinmg on my couch 167 

I slept in spring not conscious of the dawn 178 

It is a long while since I have seen you, Li Po 207 

It is fifteen years since peace was declared with the Tartars 308 

It IS midnight, yet sleep will not come to me 316 

It IS such a long way home to the East 1 84 

It IS suddenly known that we have captured Chi«peh 204 

It IS when we are near the end of a book that we enjoy it 299 

I try to forget, but it is in vain 226 

It seems a flower, but not a flower 22^ 

I was a young girl hidden deep m her chamber 166 

I wonder why the inlaid psaltery has fifty strings 273- 

Join together thirty spokes — ^you have a wheel 83 

Know the male 86 

Kwang-iwang cry the inallards 39 

Last year we fought by the springs of Sankan river 168 

Leisurely with some rustic fellow beside the wild nver 237 

Let me enjoy myself m drunkenness 303 

Like a crescent of autunm shines the moon of Omei 1 70 

Like a fairy spint I leave the gate of the city 310 

Lmg^Jmg go Ae hounds 41 

Lie Po was about to sail m his boat 169* 

Listenmg to the storm, the wind and the ram 331 

Living water should be cooked 292 

Long songs wore out my garments 260 

Love assumes the coolness of unlove 272 

Lying alone in the dark bamboo grove 1 51 

Magpie has a nest 39 

Many, without discnmination, mention your name 332 

May the gates of Heaven be opened wide 92 

More than a hundred 344 

Mountaans and nvers lie in the openmg sun 201 

Mount Wu lies south-east of Lushan 177 

My brother was a year older than I 196 

My cock-pheasant is flying away 48 

My eyes are sick, I dare not open books 306 

My hair bristles m my helmet ’ 304 

My hair could hardly cover my forehead 16 s 

My home is surrounded by a clear stream 19^^ 

My lord, you know that I am married and have a husband 243 

My mind is worn out, my features grown sharp and gaunt 29 1 

No one walks when the guardian drum sounds 207 

Now faintly the falling sun 203 

O Chu-tzu! Sprmg returns and we are still separated 196 

Oh minister of war gi 

Oh splendid, glowmg clouds 68 

Oh these precipitous rocks! 5^6 

Oh yellow bird, yellow bird 42 

Oh why should the sight of your cloth cap 43 

Old Chang died after three years* sickness 3 1 1 

Old friend, bidding farewell to Yellow Crane Tower from the west 171 
O my young brothers 343 

Once in the Phoemx Tower the phoenix made her nest 177 

One rahge of mountains 278 

On the barren south hill 71 

On the hill to the south of the city 2 24 

On the Mountain of Boiled Rice I met Tu Fu 178 

On the silk curtain the slanting sun suggests approaching evening 272 

On the taut silksprung stnngs of high autumn 263 

On this auspicious day, at the felicitous hour 88 

On this great day I must dnnk and eat ' 194 

Orchids blossomed beneath the window 136 

Our chanots are strong 113 

Our chariots so strong 66 

Our life m the world is only a great dream 1 76 

Our waters arc clean 1 14 

Over the Kokonor the long clouds darken the snow mountains 232 

Over the melancholy river thousands of peaks "are folded 295 

Plant no trees in the garden 261 

Po, the unnvalled poet 206 

Proudly, the sleek horseman tramples the fallen flowers 163 

Prune trees begin to stir before and after the snow 3 14 

Pure is the white pony 3 1 

Reachmg home, having retired from official service 291 

Red beans grow in the south country i 


Rent IS the basket at the dam 62 

Riding a tiger this king rode through the eight poles of Heaven 267 

Safe is our chariot 1 14 

Sauntering through the village where red apricots blossom each year 223 
See you not Heng mountain towering over Hunan hills 192 

Separated from you, I lament in Yeh-lang beyond the clouds 177 

She gather white asters 3 2 

She has rolled up the beaded screen 172 

She IS gathenng loto^ seed in the nvcr 164 

She went up to the mountain to gather sweet orchids 122 

Silent and alone I climb the west tower 27$ 

Silent words ripen of themselves 79 

Since I returned from garnson m the west, my hairs have turned grey 311 
Smce we parted, spring is half over 279 

Smoke- veiled chill waters, moon veiling the sands 273 

Snow falls on the Chmese land 337 

Soft are the clouds, and the moon is weak 288 

So difficult the meeting, so difficult the partmg 274 

So I lived in a thatched cottage on a narrow lane 133 

So mfinitely vast 228 

So the fisherman goes to his dnnk 293: 

South lies the Winnowing Fan, north lies the Ladle 1 2 1 

South of the nver, north of the nver lies my native land 280 

South of the nver we gather lotos 122 

Sprmg blossoms, autumn moons, will you never cease to come 281 

Standing together side by side on high mountams 330 

Strong grow the young reed-shoots^ 60 

Swee-swee go the sharp shares 44 

Take up the fish in the baskets 6 1 

Tall she was and fair ^8 

Tao gives birth to One 84 

That which no one knows is the Highest 83 

The arrowhead mmgled with black ash, brown powdered bones, 

watery reddish stains 258 

The arrows of Chimpoko are tipped with hawks* feathers 244 

The ancient master us a precept 134 

The autumn chrysanthemums have the loveliest colours 139 

Hje autumn orchids and the silver penmes 93 

l^e beautiful grapewine, the mght-glittenng cups 24^ 

The bitter cold year comes to an end 138 

The bitter pmecone may be eaten 191 

The blind musicians, the blmd musicians §1 

The bravo of Cl^o wears a cap with a Tartar cord 179 

The bright moon in love must surely laugh at me 320 

The bn^t moon soars over the Mountain of Heaven 167 

The bn^^tness of a bronze mirror 226 

The bright silk traj^in^ are omon green 26 $ 


The Chian nver brimming over 1 14 

The city has fallen, only &e hills and nvers remam 194 

The cold mountain turns dark green 

The cold nortb wmd blows , 32 

The country is still at war, no safety yet 2o2 

The crane cnes m the Nine Pools so 

The crane on the shore stands on a flight of stone steps 219 

The drum of war keeps all men apart 204 

The east wind blows over the green ram mountams 244 

The east wind is blowing m the north garden 227 

The endless blue mountains disperse 288 

The evening wind begms its whistling sound 3 1 i: 

The firewood is bound and wound 36 

The five colours lead to blindness 8i 

The flesh and hair shine i ^■4 

The flowers are hidden as the shade of twilight emerges 206 

^ The flowers have lost their withered red 289 

The flowers of the wheat are in spike 69 

The flowers of the wood have lost their sprmg* redness 2 78 

The fragrance fades from lotoses, emerald leaves wither 279 

The fragrance of the pink lotos fails 300 

The fragrance of the south-wind 69 

The glory of clouds m her raiment 172 

The good-looking boy 64 

The good ram knows when to fall 201 

The good wine of Lanlmg smells of apple-seed 177 

The gourd has bitter leaves 46 

The great Tao is unanchored — goes right and left 8^ 

The great wind rises, clouds are scattered 1 19 

The green mountams lies beyond the north wall of the city 17 1 

The hanging bndge is lost m wandering mist 23^; 

The highest form of goodness is like water 80 

The jade faces of the girls on Yueh stream 169 

The King of Yueh, K’u-chien, conquered the men of Wu 171 

The Kunming pool is the great glory of Han 196 

The lady says. ‘*It is cockcrow*’ 34 

The lonely orchid grows m the courtyard 13^ 

The long ram fells on the empty forest. Smoke nses iji 

The Lord comes not, and stays his steps 89 

The lovely Lo-fu in the land of Chin ' 17 S 

The Milky Way revolves at night among the floatmg stars 265* 

The morning rain of Wei city wets the white dust i J2 

The monk of Szechuan on the heights of Mount Omei 173 

The north wmd sweeps over the land 183 

The past only to be lamented 281 

The pattering ram on the empty steps quickens at mght 309 

The peachblossom is redder because rain fell overnight i 

The peasants m the^elds have no calendar 3 1 3 

The peppered mud-walls are yellow 261 

The petals of the bignonia 60 


There are white clouds m the heaven 70 

The red has parted from the green 302 

There is a fox ambling along 41 

There is a girl in our coach ^3 

There is a rainbow in the east 3 8 

There is a worthy man in the east 136 

There seems to be a spirit on the mountain *96 

There was no sight of man in the immense mountain i ^2 

The roar of the lion is the fearless man speaking i ss 

The sand comes and goes, wave after wave 224 

The seafarers say there is an eastern land 180 

The shining moon bums the blue water 167 

The sleek iron-grey horses 66 

The small stars are trembling 33 

The slender young peach-tree 37 

The soft sound of bells floats over the nver 312 

The son of the Supreme Lord descends the northern stairway 9 1 

The sour taste of strawbemes lingers in my mouth and teeth 306 

The south wind blows the mountains the mountains become plains 266 

The spirit of the fountam never dies 74 

The splendid glories of the past 273 

The splendid moon shines on the fiery night 120 

The springy red bow 4^ 

The strange bird makes its abode in the woods 123 

The sun has returned to the west mountains 2^9 

The sweet ram falls 11^ 

The Tien-Shan snowed soon after the cold sea-wind came 247 

The village wine is sweet and sour, the town wine rotten 314 

The waters of Mirror Lake are white like the moon 168 

The Way can only return 74 

The way is long, the body overburdened 244 

The weather is fair after the fall of a few snowflakes 314 

The wild birds on the roof are bitterly complaming to man 289 

The wind in the plane trees shakes my heart, alas’ 2^9 

The wind keen, die sky high, the gibbons wailmg 201 

The wind waves the lotoses m the scented palace by the water 170 

The Yellow River climbs amid the white clouds 

They met m the red dust 164 

Hie yoimg wife upon whom gnef has not yet come 232 

They say the fate of the trumpeter is misery and sorrow 333 

They say there is a monk on the Tai-pei mountams 1 84 

Thick grow the green thistles 47 

Thick grow the plantains 38 

Thick lies the dew 4^ 

Thin leaves wave m the wu-t’ung tree beside the well 220 

TMn mist, dense clouds sorrow over the whole day 301 

Tins Chinese Emperor, lovmg beauty, longed for ‘ ‘the killer of Empires^ ' 21^ 

Tte fr^tive between the earth and sky 191 

^ the beautiful dress 97 

Ihi^ who in ancient days were the best commanders 80 


Though I am seventy I do not want to leave my books 305 

Tin^-tmg goes the woodman^s axe 63 

To be a stranger m a strange land 15-2 

Today, the fifth moon, there are nce-shoots at CJhun-k’u 2ss 

To know people is to be wise 81 

Tremble, be fearful 7 1 

Truly die South Mountam 48 

Twiught comes down the mountain to 15 1 

Unbearable is the sickness that invades old age 314 

Under the pines I ask the boy 242 

Walking at leisure we wat^ laurel flowers falling i ^3 

Weariness has aggravated since the year 280 

We clear the grasses and trees 43 

West of the pinnacled red clouds 1 8$ 

Wet are the roads in the dew 6 1 

We were often separated 200 

We work when the sun rises 69 

Whatever is shrunk 78 

What of the night’ 36 

What the eye gazes at and cannot see is called * ‘beyond vision** 76 

Whence comes the sound of the jade flute flying through the dark 169 

When he measured out the spirit tower 51 

When I am fed, with no occupation or care, I am glad 3 14 

When I was thirteen or fourteen 1 24 

When I was young, I had no taste for wordly aflfiiirs 140 

When tite cold wind visits you from the comers of the earth 207 

When die fair one was here, the house was adorned with flowers 173 

When the sun set, I came to the viUage of Shi-kao 205- 

When will the bright moon come 294 

Where hills and v^leys crowd towards Chingmen 190 

Where life and death try friendships, here 193 

Where there is life, there must be death 138 

Where there is the Way under heaven 78 

Where the streams wind and the wind is always sighmg 198 

While the flute played on the edge of the water igi 

White beard and pink face 226 

White pebbles jut from the river stream 13-3 

White sun and bright moon 174 

Who sits along by the bnght wmdow? 300 

Wings of the dragonfly — 62 

Winter is lovely in no colour 339 

Within the grave lies the King whom autumn winds have swept away 262 
With wine I did not notice the approach of evening 178 

With you I wander the Nine Rivers 9^ 

Woe to the South Mountain! 26^ 

Would a man lay siege to the whole world and make it his own? 7ll 

Year after year I Ifeiger round gold nvers and jade gates 


Yesterday I went to the yamen to pay my tasces 


You ask when I shall return, there is no knowing 


You have a yellow horse 

Young; I was unacquainted with sorrow 


You say, The things I like best to gaze on 


You say you have no clothes 


You who come from the old village 



Traoslators' names have been lomamsed in accordance vrith their own wishes 

Cheij, Sophia 

' 300-301 

Chiang Chaoyi 

' 173 

Ching Ti 

2IJ-2Z7, 30? 

Chu Chun-I 

204. 203, 343 - 34 f 

Chu K*an 


Ho Chih-yuan 

2 JI- 27 I, 333-342 

Ho Yung 


Hsieh Wen Tung 


^Isiung Tmg 

278-282, 303, 319 

Liebenthal, Dr. Walter 

^ 55 -^S 7 

Li Fu-ning 

»i'2, If 3 

Nee Wen Yei 

I 74 i 196. 203 

Pai Chwen-yu 


Pu Hsiang-hsing 

205; 2 08-2 1 Z 

Shto Yu-tmg 


Tsang Bmg-ching 


Wang Sheng'chih 

147, 148, 182, 183, 232, 304 

Yaag Chi-sing 

123, 297, 306 

Yang Yeh-tzu 


Yuan Chia-hua 

183, i'84 

Yum K*o-chia 

, 273 

;Yu Min-chuan 

1 1 3 - 1 1 S’, 287-2^6